Jobless claims drop signals labor improvement

By Annalyn Censky, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The number of Americans filing for initial unemployment benefits tumbled last week, the government reported Thursday, resuming a downward trend that could signal an improved job picture.

There were 404,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended Jan. 15, the Labor Department said.

That was down 37,000 from the 441,000 claims filed the week before, and slightly better than the 425,000 claims economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected.

The elusive 400,000 level has been hard to break, with the weekly figure falling below that mark only once since the recession. It happened three weeks ago, but since then, the number has bounced around above that level.

Economists set their sights on 400,000, saying that level has to be broken before they can point to noteworth progress in the jobs recovery.

That said, it's not a "magic number," said Jennifer Lee, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets. "It's the trend that's more important."

Economists look at the four-week moving average to smooth out the week-to-week choppiness. That figure fell 4,000 to 411,750 from the previous week, showing continued, but slow, improvement in unemployment.

"The lower the figure goes, the more evidence there is that job creation is growing," Lee said.

Continuing claims also improved, sliding for the third week in a row to the lowest level since October 2008.

Continuing claims -- which includes people filing for the second week of benefits or more -- fell to 3,861,000 in the week ended Jan. 8, a decrease of 26,000 from the week before. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,493.37 -69.93 -0.42%
Nasdaq 4,352.64 -17.13 -0.39%
S&P 500 1,925.15 -5.52 -0.29%
Treasuries 2.50 -0.05 -2.00%
Data as of 6:35pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 14.98 -0.27 -1.77%
Apple Inc 96.13 0.53 0.55%
Facebook Inc 72.37 -0.28 -0.39%
General Electric Co 25.35 0.20 0.80%
Ford Motor Co 16.81 -0.21 -1.23%
Data as of 4:00pm ET

Sections

P&G announces it is selling or closing about 90 smaller brands to focus on its 70 to 80 major brands. More

Terrell White has had a profit-sharing plan for his employees since 1981, believing that if the staff isn't happy, guests won't be either. More

Millennials are spending big money on coffee, alcohol and fast food. Here's where they're spending the most and how much, according to budgeting app Level Money. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.