Initial jobless claims fell 9.6% to 292,000 for the week ending Sept. 7, according to a Labor Department report released today, marking the first time claims have registered under 300,000 since May 2007, but officials are saying a computer problem created the low number.
According to a government spokesman, two unnamed states (one large and one small) underwent computer system upgrades this past week that put claims processing behind schedule. Analysts hadn't expected this computer fluke, which could partially explain why their 330,000 estimate proved so far off the mark.
This week's numbers also helped push the four-week moving average down 2.3% to 321,250 initial claims, its lowest in six years. Both the latest week's claims and the four-week average fall significantly below 400,000, a cutoff point that economists consider a sign of an improving labor market.
One part of the report that wasn't affected by computer error was state-specific initial claims, which always report on the previous week's moves. For the week ending Aug. 31, California, Nevada, New York, and Georgia all recorded a decrease of more than 1,000 initial claims. California made the largest improvement, citing fewer service layoffs as the primary reason behind its 5,000-claim drop.
For the same period, only Oregon registered an increase of more than 1,000 initial claims, providing no explanation for its 1,090-initial-claim uptick.
-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.