On Thursday the United States Department of Labor announced that seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending April 21 was 388 thousand, a decrease of one thousand from the previous week.
Initial claims for benefits are made by workers who are likely starting a new period of unemployment. The figure for April 21 is significantly below 400 thousand, the level that usually signals continued or worsening labor market trouble. And it is almost 40 thousand fewer than the number from a year earlier.
On the other hand the four week moving average for initial claims for benefits, a statistic that will smooth temporary blips affecting the claims numbers, increased by 6,000, climbing to 382 thousand for the week ending April 21. But this was still 32 thousand less than the same time last year.
The number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment, a measure of the number of total claims for regular unemployment benefits as opposed to extended and emergency benefits, was up by 3,000 for the week ending April 21. Over the year, insured unemployment has dropped by 387 thousand.
For the week of April 7, there were 6.7 million claims for unemployment benefits for all programs, including emergency extensions of benefits. This compared with 8.2 million claims for the same period a year ago.
The bottom line is that the unemployment benefits claim numbers point to a situation improved from a year earlier, but we may be seeing a slowdown in the modest recovery we have been experiencing.
The latest numbers for the all of the unemployed as opposed to only those collecting unemployment benefits was that 12.7 million Americans were unemployed in March, and that the unemployment rate was 8.2 percent.
On Friday, May 4, we will know more about the state of the economy when the Bureau of Labor Statistics of United States Department of Labor reports on the employment situation, including the unemployment rate, for April. The unemployment numbers in that report will be based on data from a survey of a sample of households. The data will refer to the situation for the week including April 12.
That May 4th news release will also include April employment numbers from a survey of employing establishments. It is the one that will generate headlines about how many jobs were created and whether or not it signals that economic recovery is still on track.