New jobless claims continue modest decline
The number of workers filing for new unemployment benefits dipped slightly last week, a sign the job market is improving, albeit very slowly.
The Labor Department said Thursday initial jobless claims filed in the week ending Oct. 15 dropped to 403,000 from an upwardly revised 409,000 in the prior week. That’s down from the summer high of more than 430,000, but still far from comforting given that employers haven’t stepped up their hiring much.
Based partly on this latest count of new-jobless claims, Barclays Capital Research said it was now looking for 100,000 net new jobs to be added this month, or about the same as in September. That’s a little less than what’s needed to keep pace with the growth of the working-age population. And that means the unemployment rate will most likely remain stuck at 9.1%.
Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, observed another trouble spot in the latest labor market indicator: rising ranks of unemployed civilian and military federal workers.
“Those who want smaller government are getting it in droves,” she said in a note to clients. “The problem, especially for returning veterans, is that we don’t seem to have jobs for them when they return home.”
From week to week, the initial jobless claims data can be quite volatile. But averaging the last four weeks and comparing that with prior four-week periods also shows a steadily improving trend since summer. In the latest week, Wisconsin led the states reporting decreasing new-unemployment claims. California, New York and Texas showed the biggest increases in filings.
-- Don Lee
Photo: Job seekers line up at the Congressional Black Caucus For the People jobs fair in Los Angeles. Credit: Reuters