New applications for unemployment benefits jumped 10,000 to 372,000 in the week ended Dec. 29, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday, reflecting holiday-season volatility and showing little change in the U.S. labor market. The level of claims marked a five-week high. Initial claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 362,000 from an original reading of 350,000. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims to total a seasonally adjusted 360,000.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. We've been below the 370,000 threshold just five of the last ten weeks, though the further we get from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, the more these figures should improve.
Above you'll find the chart showing weekly, initial unemployment claims going back to the beginning of 2007. (Remember, unlike the monthly jobs chart, a lower number is good news.) For context, I've added an arrow to show the point at which President Obama's Recovery Act began spending money. Also note, tomorrow the job totals for December will be released by the BLS.