"The number of Americans who submitted initial applications for unemployment benefits last week shot up to a three-month high, reversing a sharp decline in the government’s prior report caused by a seasonal quirk that showed first-time claims at a four-year low. . . .
Two weeks ago, the Labor Department said claims had fallen to a four-year low, but the decline stemmed from a seasonal anomaly in the data that often happens at the end of a quarter. It wasn’t indicative of a rapidly improving labor market.
California showed a sharp drop in claims two weeks ago when it normally reports a big increase like most other states. Some 46 states reported higher claims in the week ended Oct. 6, government data showed. California, the most populous state, was by far the biggest exception
Initial claims from two weeks ago were revised up slightly to 342,000 from an original reading of 339,000, based on more complete data collected at the state level.
Taken together, the average of claims in the past two weeks was 365,000 — roughly the same as the Labor Department had been reporting before the end of the third quarter.
Similarly, the four-week average was little changed, rising a scant 750 to 365,500. The monthly figure smooths out volatility in the weekly data and paints a more accurate picture of labor-market trends.
The level of claims — a rough gauge of whether layoffs are rising or falling — has been little changed for most of the year.
Claims and other data, mainly the monthly employment report, suggest the economy is adding a modest number of jobs. The U.S. gained an average of 146,000 net jobs in each month of the third quarter.
Most of the increase is coming from fewer layoffs instead of an accelerated pace of hiring, however.
The current pace of job growth is expected to persist into early next year. Most businesses have turned cautious in light of a global economic slowdown and the prospect of higher U.S. taxes and deep spending cuts taking effect in 2013 unless Washington acts to change current law. Analysts call such a scenario a “fiscal cliff.”
Not good news on the jobs front in this morning's report, but a jobs report containing no good news is not really new news either.
The economy continues to struggle, and the politicians continue to debate in Humpty Dumpty fashion.
Meanwhile, businesses and consumers sit on the sidelines, waiting to see how all this shakes out in the upcoming elections and what happens with the approaching year end fiscal cliff, too.
I'm still thinking we've seen the bottom and that things are picking up somewhat across the board.
But I'm not ready to declare victory --- at least not yet.
And when victory does come, it won't feel like one, at least not until some time down the road.
Lots of work to do, but it's time to begin the long journey back to economic stability and growth, jobs and good pay, private sector leadership and national fiscal responsibility.
And while we're at it, let's drill for some oil and gas, and extract more coal, too.