For the first time since February, 2011, weekly first-time filings for unemployment have finally dropped below the 400,000 mark. This number is a kind of critical watershed point for economists, who believe that numbers above this threshold indicate an ailing economy, while those below this mark are less worrisome.
According to CNNMoney there were 381,000 such claims filed for the week that ended on December third, based on US Labor Department reports. This is down by 23,000 from the prior week’s count of 402,000, and finally dips back below the 400K mark. According to the CNNMoney story, “a level below 400,000 often signals job growth strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.” Of course this accords nicely with the latest Employment Situation Summary for November, 2011 which reported a drop in unemployment from 9.1 to 8.6 percent for November.
With weekly filings finally dropping below the 400K mark, it’s reasonably likely that we’ll see another decline in unemployment numbers when the December report appears on Friday, January 6. Keep your fingers crossed: this is just the kind of good economic news we need to hear more of. The only thing I’m worried about is the usual bump in part-time hiring that always occurs around the holiday season. Perhaps the February report will be even more interesting, as the January numbers will reflect the departure of lots of part-time and temporary workers taken on for the end-of-year shopping season.