Jobless claims fall markedly

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The past week saw a huge fall in the number of persons making an initial filing for jobless claims. The U.S. Department of Labor reported:

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In the week ending Feb. 6, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 440,000, a decrease of 43,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 483,000. The 4-week moving average was 468,500, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 469,500.

While this is certainly good news, given the erratic weather over the past week, we would be best served to wait until next week to see if administrative snafus had anything to do with the drop.  The unadjusted number of people still on the unemployment roles is 5.6 million. To that is added an additional 5.4 million on extended benefits, meaning a near record 11.1 million people are receiving some sort of unemployment insurance benefits.

Overall then, the labor market in the U.S. remains weak. Moreover, I expect February’s unemployment rate to increase from the seasonal adjustment-marred 9.7% rate we saw last week. Nevertheless, I still anticipate a positive non-farm payroll number by the end of Q1 2010. And while that is a long way off from the 150,000 jobs per month we need to reduce the unemployment rate, it is better than losing 500,000+ jobs per month as we did through most of 2009.

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