Weekly jobless claims hold steady

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More modest progress on the employment front, as initial jobless claims were unchanged at 505,000 for the week ending November 14, but continuing claims decreased again, falling 39,000 to 5.61 million, the U.S. Labor Department announced Thursday.

A Bloomberg News economists survey had expected initial jobless claims to fall to 504,000 this week. Meanwhile, the four-week moving average for initial jobless claims decreased 6,500 to 514,000.

A year ago, initial jobless claims totaled 533,000 and continuing claims totaled 4.02 million.
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a liberal Washington, D.C. think tank, said there are now 27 million Americans underemployed – without work or without full-time work – and called on President Obama, Congress, and the states to take swift, decisive action to create jobs. The EPI recommended further extensions in both unemployment compensation and COBRA benefits, an end to cuts in key state programs, fiscal relief to the states, increased infrastructure spending by Congress to immediately create jobs, and tax credits for small/medium-sized business to encourage hiring.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending November 7, the latest week for which data is available, were in: Michigan, 6,001; New Jersey, 4,153; Pennsylvania, 3,552; New York, 3,508; and Ohio, 3,292. The largest decreases were in Florida, -1,915; Arkansas; -734; Oregon, -274; South Carolina, -116; and West Virginia, -19.

Analysis: Jobless claims were flat, but that doesn't blot out the two other, key data points this week: more declines (39,000) in continuing claims, which is a good sign; and a substantial 6,500 decline in the four-week moving average for jobless claims, to 514,000. Labor market conditions are not improving at a rapid rate, but layoffs are declining, which is what U.S. equity markets will likely emphasize.
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