For the week ending April 4, seasonally adjusted initial applications for unemployment compensation claims were
281,000, up 14,000 from the previous week. A less volatile measure, the four-week moving average, was 282,250, down 3,000 from the previous week. That's the lowest level for the four-week average since June 3, 2000.
For the past six months, the number of initial applications for compensation have averaged 290,500 a week. That's a match for the best years of the Clinton administration and less than half as many as was the case during late 2008 and the first six months of 2009 when the Great Recession was at its worst.
Nationwide, the number of people claiming compensation for the week ending March 21 was 2,617,970, down 141,794 from the previous week. For the comparable week of 2014, there were 3,163,363 persons claiming compensation.
But that figure is deceptive. While hiring for full- and part-time jobs was averaging well over 225,000 for 12 consecutive months until March this year, congressional Republicans in December 2013 refused to renew the federal emergency unemployment compensation program that provided modest relief to Americans in the worst-hit states who had been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer. That instantly chopped 1.34 million claimants off the compensation rolls. Meanwhile, several states have cut the duration of eligibility for compensation from the 26 weeks that was standard for 50 years to something less.
So those year-to-year totals aren't a fair comparison. A significant portion of those who lost their compensation and still haven't found jobs have simply dropped out of the labor force and are no longer counted in the headline numbers.
In terms of new compensation claims, however, the situation right now is about as good as it ever gets.