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Thursday's data from the Department of Labor continue to paint a picture of a slowly recovering employment landscape. Seasonally adjusted claims for the week ended April 20 fell to 339,000, 16,000 fewer than the week prior, a 4.5% drop.
While week-to-week comparisons can be useful when trying to wrap your mind around the bigger picture, four-week moving averages are even more revealing.
Not only is the 339,000 figure from April 20 below the 357,500 four-week moving average, that moving average itself is more than 5% below what it was just a year ago, when the four-week moving average stood at 378,500 .
While these data show a labor market moving in the right direction, the steady improvement doesn't mean declines in unemployment claims are spread more or less evenly throughout the nation. For example, New York reported 14,113 fewer initial claims in the week ended April 13, as "fewer layoffs in the transportation, educational services, and food service industries" helped to keep people off unemployment benefits. However, that same week, California reported a 24,303 increase in claims, as the state cited "layoffs in the service industry," as the main reason.