After three months of improvement from the 400,000 area to the 350,000 area, jobless claims are now backing and filling slightly. Initial claims in the March 3 week rose 8,000 to 362,000 with the prior week revised 3,000 higher. There are no special factors distorting the data. The February 11 week is the recovery low so far for claims at 351,000.
A long streak of improvement in the four-week average has been snapped at seven weeks with the average up, but only fractionally, to 355,000. Revisions, together with new improvement, could very well revive this streak. The month-to-month change, a comparison that offers a gauge for the monthly employment report, shows a tangible improvement of more than 10,000.
Other data in today's report include a small rise to 3.418 million for continuing claims where however the four-week average, at 3.418 million, is down for an eighth straight week. The unemployment rate for insured workers is unchanged for a fourth week at 2.7 percent.
Markets were looking for further encouragement ahead of tomorrow's big employment report and the slight increases in claims are a slight disappointment. Still, trends in this series point to strength for the February employment report.
Market Consensus before announcement
Initial jobless claims in the February 25 week came in at 351,000, down 2,000 from the revised prior week. The four-week average extended its long convincing trend downward, falling 5,500 to 354,000. Continuing claims in data for the February 18 week were down 2,000 to 3.402 million with the four-week average down 12,000 to 3.444 million.