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Tim Marcin/MEDILL

The four-week moving average fell slightly from last week, although it remains relatively stagnant.

Jobless claims fall; outlook unchanged overall

by Tim Marcin
March 06, 2014

The number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment insurance dropped significantly over the past week.

For the week ended March 1, the U.S. Department of labor reported 323,000 claims, down 7.4 percent, or 26,000 jobs, from the week earlier.

The number was significantly better than Yahoo Finance’s forecast of 338,000 claims. Locally, Illinois saw a 1,574 drop in claims.

Experts are often wary of volatile week-to-week data, however.

“The numbers on a weekly basis are always pretty noisy,” said Guy Berger, economist at RBS Securities Inc. “I would focus more on the four-week moving average,” which was 336,000 claims.

The four-week average result indicates not much overall movement. There were 338,500 claims the week ended Feb. 22 and 338,250 the week before that.
Other data can provide a clearer picture of the economy as a whole, Berger said.

“Employment growth was really strong in October and November. We got very disappointing employment reports in December and January,” he said. “And we don’t think February is going to be much better.”

Total non-farm payroll rose by just 113,000 in January, and the unemployment rate was relatively unchanged at 6.6 percent.

The weather may be a factor in the slow economic growth, although it remains unclear just how much, Berger said. The true test for the economy will come after the initial bounce back from the winter, he said.

“We’re going to have another year of so-so economic growth,” Berger said.