This morning, the Department of Labor announced that the number of people making initial claims for unemployment insurance during the week ending Oct. 20 fell to 369,000, down 23,000 from the previous week. Despite the big drop, the four-week average of jobless claims rose slightly to 368,000.
Jobless claims figures have been especially volatile over the past month, with last week's revised figure of 392,000 following a big drop the previous week to 342,000. Even taking out the impact of seasonal adjustment of the figures, the numbers have moved sharply in recent weeks, with this week's drop of more than 20,000 initial claims only partially offsetting last week's jump of nearly 33,000.
Looking more broadly, claims for ongoing unemployment benefits fell modestly, declining by 2,000 to 3.254 million on a seasonally adjusted basis. The four-week moving average also fell to just under 3.27 million.
This week's release also included state-specific information on jobless claims for the week that ended Oct. 13. California saw a huge increase in jobless claims of nearly 27,000, with layoffs coming from across all industries but with the service sector providing the biggest number. Florida saw an increase of nearly 4,000, with layoffs from a number of industries, including agriculture, construction, and manufacturing. Among states with decreases in claims, New York led with a nearly 3,400 drop, as better conditions in health care, real estate, and food services contributed to the drop.
Although weekly claims data provide a key measure of the labor market, most economists prefer to focus on the monthly employment report. The next installment of that key report will come out on Nov. 2, the Friday before Election Day.