In a recent MoneyWatch post I said:
The release last Thursday of initial weekly claims for unemployment insurance showing 473,000 claims, an increase of 31,000 over the 442,000 claims the previous week, hasn't received nearly enough attention. Claims have been essentially moving sideways for several weeks now, and they are still far above the break even point at approximately 400,000 claims per week. The economy will continue losing jobs so long as initial claims stay above 400,000 per week. ...
Claims will be released on Thursday of this week, and I'll be keeping a closer eye on them than usual. If they continue to move sideways, it's time to worry.
I'd be less worried if it looked like a meaningful job creation package was about to emerge from Congress, but the proposals under discussion don't do nearly enough, and what little that has been proposed isn't happening as fast as needed. ... And while it's good that health care reform is coming back onto the front burner, that means that a job creation bill is unlikely to be the main priority for Congress in the near future.
Update: Maybe they were listening. If this bill does eventually pass, it will still be far, far short of what is needed, and much later than needed, but it's something. A meager something, but something nonetheless.
Here is Calculated Risk on today's release:
The DOL reports on weekly unemployment insurance claims:
In the week ending Feb. 20, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 496,000, an increase of 22,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 474,000. The 4-week moving average was 473,750, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week's revised average of 467,750. ...
This graph shows the 4-week moving average of weekly claims since 1971. ...
The current level of 496,000 (and 4-week average of 473,750) are very high and suggest continuing job losses in February. This is the highest level since last November.
Action from Congress to stimulate jobs has been woefully inadequate. Voters will be right to blame politicians for failing to address this problem. Policymakers certainly had plenty of warning it was coming, but they chose to put their heads in the sand and ignore it, or to avoid the difficult politics of job creation policies by cherry picking the data in a way that convinced them that recovery was just around the corner.
[Also posted at MoneyWatch.]