Unemployment: Initial and Continuing Claims Both Drop

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jobsThe Labor Dept. announced today some moderately encouraging employment news: Initial jobless claims normalized after a week of holiday-skewed data, falling by 24,000 to 456,000 for the week ending Apr. 17.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected jobless claims to total 460,000. A year ago, initial jobless claims totaled 633,000.

The four-week moving average increased 2,750 to 460,250, compared to 634,000 a year ago. Continuing claims fell 40,000 to 4.69 million. They totaled 6.05 million in the same period last year.

Various Glimpses of the Jobs Picture

States also reported 5.35 million people claimed Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits for the week ending Apr. 3, the latest week for which information is available, a decrease of 508,187 from the prior week. A year ago, there were 2.36 million EUC claimants.

Economists view the four-week average for jobless claims as a better indicator of unemployment conditions because it smooths out anomalies for strikes, holidays or other idiosyncratic events.

Economists also monitor the continuing claims number because it provides a snapshot of how long it's going to take the typical person to find comparable employment once he/she has lost a job. In general, continuing claims above 3 million reflect a slack labor market and point to extended six- to nine-month (or longer) job searches.

Holiday Distortions

The largest increases in initial jobless claims for the week ending Apr. 10, the latest week for which data is available, were in: New York, 23,876; California, 23,785; Florida, 7,304; Indiana, 5,603; and Texas, 4,576. The largest decreases were in: Kentucky, -2,147; Iowa, -1,447; New Jersey, -867; Nevada, -850; and Puerto Rico, -763.

This week's report had some bright spots, for instance that initial jobless claims fell after a holiday-distorted week. Still, economists and job-market statisticians will need a week or two more of data to account for anomalies associated with the spring holiday period before they can conclude that the downward track in claims will be sustained.
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