Weekly Unemployment Claims Drop to Four-Year Low
Applications for unemployment benefits continue to drop.
The hard statistical evidence keeps flowing in: the economy is improving.
One of the key metrics gauging such progress notched a four-year record low when the Department of Labor last updated its weekly tally of unemployment claims. According to the DOL, for the week ending March 17, initial unemployment claims totaled approximately 348,000 on a seasonally-adjusted basis. That number was a drop of 5,000 from the level of the previous week.
It was also the lowest figure since March of 2008. It continued the falling trend begun this past August, as employers slowed the pace of layoffs and firings and began to take on new workers, albeit cautiously in many instances.
For the most part, the number of fresh claims has gone down every succeeding week. Confirming this trend (and matching the since-2008 record of weekly claims) was the four-week moving average of the claims number, which many judge to be a better measure of economic trends as it smoothes out the occasional aberration in the week-to-week figures. With the March 17 statistics, the four-week moving average stood at 355,000, a decline of 1,250 from the previous rate.
Another good sign is that large, populous states are seeing notable declines. The DOL did not break down the March 17 statistics by state, but it did have some figures for the previous week. For that period, the top dropper was New York with a sharp fall of over 14,000 initial unemployment claims from the previous week.
This is particularly good news, as significant regions in the state can be challenging in terms of job creation. California was also one of the biggest losers, shedding nearly 4,700 claims. Illinois, Florida and Pennsylvania all lost more than 1,000 from their week-on-week March 10 totals. Gains, meanwhile, weren’t as drastic, with the leader being Kentucky with 742 more claims, Alabama with 475 and North Carolina adding 471.
The DOL’s updated figures added another dollop of optimism to the financial markets and the overall business climate. According to a Bloomberg poll, the percentage of respondents who believe the economy is improving rose to its highest number since 2004. The poll findings were released on the back of the DOL’s press release announcing its updated jobless claims numbers.