Jobs Stats Show No Big Improvement

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Initial jobless claims fell for the second straight week last week, according to numbers released by the Labor Department on Monday.

First-timers filed 472,000 jobless claims in the week ending Aug. 28, down 6,000 from the week prior. The four-week moving average on claims, which is a better measure since it accounts for outliers, was 485,500, a decrease of 2,500 from the previous week's average.

“It’s not exactly anything to throw a party over,” Thomas Bodenberg, head of Economics for Unity Marketing, said. “Overall, however, we can be cautiously optimistic with the emphasis, of course, being on cautiously.”

Additionally, the number of continuing claims filed by workers for more than one week in the week ended Aug. 14 fell by 62,000 to 4.46 million. The four-week moving average for ongoing claims fell by 28,500 to 4.485 million. Continuing claims are reported with a one-week lag.

Bodenberg said that the numbers collectively paint a “mixed picture.”  According to him, the Labor Department’s recently released stats indicate the job market is leveling out as opposed to improving.  He said that while the small decrease in claims indicates that employers are no longer making mass layoffs, the country has yet to see an dramatic pick-up in consumer demand.

Still, Bodenberg adds “at least we are not seeing indicators of a decrease in economic stability.”

Claims had been stuck in the mid- to upper-400,000 range for about nine months prior to a spike in early August when claims for jobless benefits rose by 12,000 last week to 500,000. It was the fourth increase in five weeks.

Bodenberg said that the latest numbers weren’t likely to be affected by any special factors, such as the start of a new school year, as they are seasonally adjusted.

Jobless claims in seven states declined by more than 1,000 in the week ended Aug. 21. Claims in California dropped the most, by 5,893, while Puerto Rico had the largest increase in claims, with a rise of 2,190.

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