Even as Jobless Claims Tick Up, Trend Heads Lower

Initial jobless claims bumped up 0.6% to a seasonally adjusted 336,000 for the week ending March 16, according to a Labor Department report released today. Although the week-to-week rise put an end to three straight weeks of declining initial unemployment claims, this week's results beat market analyst expectations of 340,000 new claims. 

Source: Labor Department. 

After dropping to a five-year low the previous week, the four-week moving average continued its downward trend by falling 2.2% to reach 339,750 initial claims. Both the most recent week's number and the moving average clocked in solidly below 400,000, a cutoff point that economists consider a sign of an improving labor market.

On a state-by-state basis, five states recorded decreases of more than 1,000 in their initial jobless claims for the week ending March 9 (most recent available data). New York (-7,250) and California (-6,190) led the drop, citing fewer layoffs in the services sector as the primary reason for their labor market improvement. Illinois, Kansas, and Alabama all recorded decreases of just more than 1,000. Georgia was the only state to register an increase of more than 1,000 in initial claims. The Peach State listed layoffs in manufacturing, trade, and construction among the main reasons for its 1,678 increase.

Looking ahead, the Federal Reserve announced yesterday that it expects the current 7.7% unemployment rate to drop to 7% or less by 2014.

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