The numbers for first-time unemployment claims for the week ending 1/14/2012 are in, and they tell an interesting story. Although numbers for the previous week moved back above the 400,000 line for the first time since last November to 402,000, the numbers for the current reporting week dropped to 352,000. That’s a dip of 50,000 which is the largest weekly reduction in quite some time.
Many economists peg the “magic number” that separates job growth and economic improvement from job stagnation and recession (or worse!) at 400,000 for this particular benchmark. A drop to around 350,000 shows better than 10 percent improvement, and could be a harbinger of an improving job situation. According to the latest US Department of Labor report, the unadjusted numbers (“the advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted”) look even better, at over 124,000 less than the preceding week, and were also better than 28,000 under the same week last year.
We can’t be sure that because this yo-yo went down this week, it’s not going to reverse course next week. But overall, long-term numbers are also trending downward, and speak to continuing, but slow improvement in the employment situation. Given recent economic events in Europe (the debt crisis, a dropping Euro, and a failure to agree on a general EU debt solution) it’s encouraging to see things keep improving for the US economy anyway. Let’s just hope nothing too catastrophic assaults our fragile recovery so that it can keep going and hopefully, start to pick up more speed and momentum.
Keep your fingers crossed!