(Via the Rachel Maddow blog)
Initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits fell to their lowest level in almost four years last week, the Department of Labor
this morning. For the week ended Feb. 11, the seasonally adjusted claims were 348,000. That was down 13,000 from the previous week's revised claims of 361,000. The four-week moving average, which flattens volatility in the weekly numbers, fell to 365,250.
First-time claims have run below 400,000 for 13 of the past 15 weeks.
For all unemployment insurance programs, including the federal "emergency" extensions that allows jobless Americans in some states to collect up to 99 weeks of benefits, the total number of seasonally adjusted continuing claims for the week ending Jan. 28 was 7,681,911, an increase of 18,304 from the previous week.
“The improvement in the pace of claims reinforces the positive momentum that has been evident in other labor market indicators,” said Millan Mulraine, a senior U.S. strategist at TD Securities in New York, noting that the report is “further confirmation that the recent gains in employment growth are being sustained.”
Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth—measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report—accelerates.
The drop in joblessness over the last few months stems in part from fewer workers in the labor force, according to some Federal Reserve officials.
“A few participants noted that the recent decline in the unemployment rate reflected declining labor force participation in large part, and judged that the decline in the participation rate was likely to be reversed, at least to some extent, as the recovery continues and labor demand picks up,” according to minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting Jan. 24-25 released yesterday in Washington.
Although the official unemployment has fallen to 8.3 percent, and the unemployment and underemployment rate is now at 15.1 percent, at least 23.8 million Americans are jobless or underemployed, meaning they have part-time jobs but want to work full time. For every four workers seeking a job, there is one opening.
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