Initial jobless claims fell 1.6% to 305,000 for the week ending Sept. 21, according to a Labor Department report released today. That's the lowest number in six years.
After increasing a revised 5.4% the previous week, this newest report trounced analysts' expectations of 330,000 claims. And while computer system upgrades left the previous two weeks' numbers less-than-analyzable, this latest unaffected report solidly signals labor market improvement.
From a more long-term perspective, a 2.2% drop in the four-week moving average to 308,000 initial claims marks the fourth straight report of decreases. 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.
On a state-by-state basis, not a single state recorded a decrease of more than 1,000 initial claims for the week ending Sept. 14 (most recent available data). For the same period, eight states registered increases of more than 1,000 initial claims.
California led the rise, with 22,610 more claims primarily resulting from a return to a five-day workweek (after Labor Day holiday) and a full week of processing after its computer system updates. Agricultural layoffs helped push Florida's numbers up 3,950, while manufacturing proved the main mover behind Georgia's 2,960-initial-claim increase.