Jobless Claims Increased Last Week, But The Broad Trend Is Still Positive

The good news for jobless claims in today’s weekly update is that there’s no news. Although new filings for unemployment benefits moderately increased by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 354,000 last week, that’s close to a wash in terms of one data point for this volatile series. The key issue is that claims continue to hover just above the five-year low of 327,000 for the week through April 27, 2013. That’s an encouraging sign as it suggests that the May payrolls report (scheduled for release next Friday, June 7) will deliver another round of moderate growth.

On a week-to-week basis there’s always room for doubt about the future path for claims, but the general trend still looks positive, albeit modestly so. Although the four-week average has moved higher in recent weeks, the erratic but mostly persistent decline appears to be intact this year.

Looking at the year-over-year percentage change in unadjusted claims data also remains upbeat. New filings fell a bit more than 8% last week vs. the year-earlier level. That’s in line with recent history and the change implies that the labor market continues to produce jobs on a net basis.

If new claims were trending higher, particularly on a year-over-year basis, we’d have a dark signal for anticipating the trend in payrolls. But for now, today’s numbers still offers a positive clue on this front.
The bad news is that claims in the last several weeks are largely unchanged vs. a month earlier. That’s hardly the end of the world, but it’s a reminder that the pace of jobs growth, although still positive, isn’t likely to break free of the modest path that we’ve seen lately.