Seasonally adjusted jobless claims fell last week by 27,000—the biggest weekly drop in nearly two months and quite a bit more than the 2,000 retreat that economists generally were expecting. The news is a breath of fresh air for the business cycle, although it comes with some caveats. Nonetheless, the headline trend for the moment looks quite a bit better today: new filings for unemployment benefits dropped to 451,000 for the week through September 4, the lowest since early July.
Encouraging, but let’s remember that the Labor Day holiday weekend that just passed surely skewed the numbers. This data series is volatile to begin with and if you add in one of the biggest party weekends in the U.S. into the mix, well, you have to take the news with a grain of salt until the next round of updates. If you joined the ranks of the newly jobless last week, the temptation to take advantage of a long holiday weekend and think of other things for a few days can’t be ruled out. We’ll see if next week’s numbers offer any clarity.
Meanwhile, let’s take today’s drop to 451,000 at face value. A nice downward move, to be sure, and for all we know it signals a renewed bout of strength in the economy. But we’ve been here before, as the chart below reminds. In fact, this series dipped to 427,000 in early July. Until we move down to that level, and below it, it’s hard to dismiss the trendless trend that’s otherwise still in force this year for jobless claims.
For for the time being, the crowd’s likely to be pleased with the number du jour.