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Megan Hickey/ MEDILL

Last week's new claims for unemployment benefits plummeted more than 8 percent from the week before.


New unemployment claims fall

by Megan Hickey
Oct 11, 2012


New claims for unemployment benefits plummeted to a four-year low last week, the government reported Thursday. First time claims fell by 30,000 to 339,000 in the week ended Oct. 6, a decrease of more than 8 percent from the week before. February 2008 was the last time the U.S. saw initial claims levels that were this low.

Economists had been expecting a much higher number, averaging an estimated 368,000 claims. The lowest estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg was 355,000, which was still far above Thursday’s actual reported number of claims.

Because weekly changes can be volatile, economists prefer to look at the four-week moving average, which also showed a decrease in the week ended Oct. 6. The four-week figure decreased by 11,500 to 375,000.

These numbers come on the heels of Friday’s news that the national unemployment rate had fallen to 7.8 percent, the lowest since January 2009.

While the jobs news seems much better than just a few weeks ago, some are skeptical that much has really changed. “The suggestion is that there’s something going on in the labor market that thus far we haven’t seen,” said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist of BTIG LLC, in a statement. He added, “Are things that much better all of a sudden? Perhaps. But we’re going to wait for some corroborating data points before making a judgment one way or the other.”

Among individual states, Florida and Ohio saw new claims drop by more than 1,000. State officials cited fewer layoffs as the reason for the drop.

One of the largest decreases came in the battleground state of Michigan, where new claims fell by 2,369.