For the week ending March 16, the Department of Labor reported Thursday, seasonally adjusted initial claims were 336,000, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 334,000, first reported as 332,000. For the comparable week of 2012, the figure was 364,000. The four-week moving average, which analysts prefer because it flattens volatility in the weekly numbers, was 339,750, a decrease of 7,500 from the previous week's revised average of 347,250.
In all programs, both state and federally funded "emergency" extensions, the total number of people claiming benefits for the week ending March 2 was 5,369,007, a decrease of 250,853 from the previous week. For the comparable week of 2012, 7,284,741 persons claimed benefits in all programs. The decrease is partly due to people having obtained jobs and no longer needing benefits and others having exhausted their benefits.
In the past quarter-century, the best 19-month period for weekly first-time unemployment claims occurred at the end of the Clinton administration. From April 1999 through October 2000, claims were, with rare exceptions, in the 260,000-310,000 range. That was, correspondingly, a time of significant job growth.
First-time claims for benefits are an indicator of how the jobs report the Bureau of Labor Statistics issues the first week of each month will look. Lower numbers of claims typically indicates higher numbers of new jobs over time. But these rarely provide a perfect match.
The most recent monthly BLS jobs report showed 12 million Americans are officially unemployed, 6.8 million are not in the labor force but say they want a job, and eight million are working part time because they can't get full-time work. That totals 26.8 million unemployed and underemployed Americans.
Heidi Shierholz at the Economic Policy Institute notes:
We have a jobs deficit of 8.9 million jobs (the 3 million we are still down from when the recession started, plus the 5.9 million we should have added over this period to keep up with growth in the potential labor force). Even at February’s growth rate, we wouldn’t get back to the prerecession unemployment rate until mid-2017. The jobs deficit is so large that to return to the prerecession unemployment rate by February 2016, another three years from now, we would have to add 320,000 jobs every single month between now and then.For every job opening, there are 3.3 Americans actively seeking work.