Fewer Join Ranks of Newly Unemployed

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Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs and joined the unemployment lines last week -- slightly less people than the week before, but still far too many to help stabilize our housing market, prevent foreclosures and grow our economy.

The number of people who filed for their first week of unemployment benefits dropped to a seasonally adjusted rate of 457,000 in the week ending March 13, down 5,000 from 462,000 initial claims for unemployment the week before, according to the Dept. of Labor.

The four-week moving average, which smooths out some the week-to-week up and down of the numbers, also dropped to a seasonally-adjusted 471,250, down 4,250 from the week before.
The slight improvement was led by the big, volatile states of New York and California -- New York had fewer layoffs in the transportation and service industries, while California saw layoffs recede in the trade and service industries.

When dealing with an endless parade of economic tallies like unemployment claims, it helps to put the numbers in perspective. People file for unemployment in good times and bad -- back in 2005, the seasonally-adjusted rate of new claims hovered at a little over 300,000 a week. Economists say that a rate of about 450,000 initial unemployment claims typically represents a stable job market, in which the unemployment rate is neither rising or falling.

The seasonally-adjusted rate of initial claims has been wobbling at a little over 450,000-a-week since Christmas. The job market seems to have stabilized at "really bad." Maybe we should say "stagnated."

Of course, we should be thankful to be doing better than last year: Twelve months ago, the seasonally adjusted rate of initial claims was 644,000.
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