U.S. Initial Jobless Claims Fall for Fourth Straight Week


More encouraging news on the employment front, as initial jobless claims declined for the fourth straight week, falling by 14,000 to 442,000 for the week ending March 20, the U.S. Labor Department announced Thursday.

The Labor Department says this week's report reflects annual revisions to the weekly unemployment claims' seasonal adjustment factor, which lowered claims by about 10,000 compared with the old methodology.

A Bloomberg News economists survey had expected jobless claims to total 450,000.

The four-week moving average dropped 11,000 to 453,750, while continuing claims fell 54,000 to 4.65 million.

A year ago, initial jobless claims totaled 642,000, the four-week moving average was 639,750, and continuing claims totaled 5.63 million.

Parsing the Numbers

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

The continuing claims stat provides a snapshot of how long it's going to take the typical person to find comparable employment once he/she losses a job. In general, continuing claims above 3 million reflect a slack labor market and point to extended (six to nine months or longer) job searches.

States reported 5.56 million people claimed Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits for the week ending March 6, the latest week for which data are available, a decrease of 330,000 from the prior week. EUC claims totaled 2.09 million a year ago.

Even after factoring out the seasonal adjustment, investors will likely warmly greet the most recent jobless claims report. After a lull this winter, the downward trend in initial jobless claims has resumed with a simultaneous decline in the more-telling four-week moving average. Provided each downtrend persists, that would be a sign that the job market is starting to gain traction -- first with fewer companies shedding employees, and later with new hires.