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New Weekly Jobless Claims Fall (Snow?)

From a giddy Associated Press:

Fewer people sought unemployment aid last week

By Christopher S. Rugaber, AP Economics Writer
February 24, 2011

WASHINGTON – Fewer people requested unemployment benefits last week, pushing the average number of applications over the past four weeks to the lowest level in more than two and a half years.

Applications for unemployment benefits dropped by 22,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 391,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the third decline in the past four weeks.

Weren’t there tremendous blizzards across much of the country last week? Or will we only hear about them next week, when the number spikes back up?

Even so, we suspect that when we get the next monthly report unemployment numbers the unemployment rate will still be the same or even higher. Even with the Department Of Labor’s new metrics.

By the way, as usual, last week’s new jobless claims number was revised up by 3,000.

The four-week average for applications, a less volatile figure, fell to 402,000. That’s the lowest number since late July 2008 and a hopeful sign that the job market is slowly improving.

Perhaps. But we once again will note that the number of jobs even in the United States is finite. Eventually we are just going to run out of jobs to lose.

Applications below 425,000 tend to signal modest job growth. But they would need to dip consistently to 375,000 or below to indicate a significant decline in the unemployment rate. Applications for benefits peaked during the recession at 651,000.

The report is the first in several weeks that wasn’t distorted by harsh winter weather. Three weeks ago, big snowstorms closed government offices in several states and made it harder for recently laid-off workers to apply for benefits. That caused applications to fall to 385,000, the lowest point in nearly three years. Applications bounced back the following week when government offices reopened.

Last week was only the third time since the recession ended in June 2009 that fewer than 400,000 people requested unemployment benefits.

The number of people receiving benefits also fell sharply to 3.79 million, the smallest total since October 2008.

That doesn’t include millions of people enrolled in emergency unemployment benefit programs funded by the federal government. Another 4.45 million unemployed workers received benefits under the extended programs during the week ending Feb. 5, the latest data available. All told, about 9.2 million people were on the benefit rolls that week, 90,000 fewer than the previous week.

Once again we suspect that most of this seeming good news is might be due to people’s benefits running out, and not because they found work.

Still, notice that in this entire AP article New Weekly Jobless Claims Fall (Snow?)there is no mention of any economic experts being surprised or not surprised. Which is pretty surprising.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, February 24th, 2011. Comments are currently closed.

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