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Kristin A Kim UNEMP Chart Final

U.S. Department of Labor/Kristin April Kim/MEDILL

Despite the fact that last week's initial claims were the lowest since May 2007, the four-week moving averages of initial and continued claims remain above pre-recession levels.


Jobless claims lowest since recession

by Kristin April Kim
April 10, 2014

Jobless claims in the U.S. fell sharply to the lowest level since the start of the 2007 recession, signaling continued advancement in the labor market.


The Department of Labor reported Thursday that initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased 32,000 to 300,000 in the week ended April 5.


The decline surpassed the optimistic predictions in a Bloomberg survey of 52 economists, whose median estimate was 320,000 claims. 


The four-week moving average of new claims also dropped, by 4,750 from the previous week. This measurement, which smooths out any week-to-week volatility in initial claims, is considered a better measure of labor market conditions.


“It’s hard to predict a trend from just a one month or one quarter observation, but coupled with the strong job growth that was reported for last month, it’s a positive sign of a rebounding labor market,” said Paul Gabriel, professor of economics at Loyola University. “All I can say is that if the present trend of job creation continues, it will definitely bode well for the future of the labor market.” The Department of Labor reported last week that the economy added 192,000 jobs in March.


Furthermore, the number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits decreased by 62,000 to 2.78 million, the lowest since January 2008. 


The unemployment rate among people eligible for jobless benefits fell to 2.1 percent in the week ended March 29 from 2.2 percent the prior week, according to the report.  


The near-seven-year-low in initial claims is reflected in Illinois, where initial claims filed in the week ended March 29 decreased by 2,753 from the same time last year.