Last week’s sharp drop in new filings for jobless benefits claims evaporated in today’s follow-up report.The trendless trend in initial claims rolls on.

There was a brief, shining moment a week ago when it was easy to imagine something better. Yes, we should have known better, but the desire to believe that better times are just around the corner is a strong emotion in these United States. Alas, the glass-is-half-full perspective continues to take a beating. Indeed, as the chart below reminds, last week’s dip in jobless claims didn’t last long. Par for the course in 2010, a year that’s distinguished itself as keeping the labor market in a state of perpetual non motion.

The news that job creation is sluggish at best is old news, of course, but it’s no less troubling. “The labor market is still very weak,” Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at Maria Fiorini Ramirez Inc., tells Bloomberg. “Things will probably improve very gradually, but really painfully.”
The next installment on defining the pain and gradualism in more detail arrives in tomorrow’s payrolls report for October. The Labor Department is expected to announced that the economy added 60,000 new private jobs last month on a net basis, according to the consensus forecast of economists via Briefing.com.
Any rise in the labor market is welcome news, of course, but a 60,000 advance is well short of what’s required just keep the jobless rate steady. That’s a fairly low standard, but at the moment that’s about all that the expectations traffic can bear. As the Associated Press reports today, “the economy needs to add at least 200,000 jobs a month to keep up with population growth and to help get some of the 15 million unemployed back to work.” Unfortunately, such gains are nowhere on the horizon.
The economy will likely continue bubbling along with enough momentum to keep us out of a new recession for the near term, all the more so now that the Federal Reserve is set to launch a new round of monetary stimulus. Given what we know now, however, that’s about as good as it gets until further notice. But since that’s not good enough, there’s still plenty of uncertainty lurking in the shadows.