Initial jobless claims fell 6% to a seasonally adjusted 344,000 for the week ending Feb. 23, according to a Labor Department report released today. After jumping a revised 7% the previous week, this newest report might stem some labor market concerns, but is further evidence of week-to-week employment volatility. Market analysts had expected a slight 1.6% decrease for the week.
On a more long-term scale, the four-week moving average fell 1.9% to 355,000. 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, 15 states recorded decreases of more than 1,000 in their initial jobless claims for the week ending Feb. 16 (most recent available data). Illinois was most improved (-3,285), citing fewer layoffs in construction and administrative support as primary reasons. Only California and Connecticut registered increases in initial claims of more than 1,000. California's 26,680-claim jump originated from layoffs in all sectors, with the largest increase in the services industry. Connecticut offered no comment on its 1,750-claim bump .
For the week ending Feb. 16 (most recent available data), the advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate dropped 0.1 percentage point from the prior week's revised rate to land at 2.4%.
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