William Katz:  Urgent Agenda






BULLETIN – WORRYING NEW JOBLESS FIGURES – AT 8:38 A.M. ET:  Each Thursday morning the Labor Department releases figures on the number of new claims for unemployment benefits for the week before.  These are the most frequently released economic numbers we have.

Figures released just minutes ago tell a story of a stalling recovery.  From Bloomberg:

More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign the improvement in labor-market conditions may be stalling.

Jobless claims fell by 2,000 to 386,000 in the week ended April 14 from a revised 388,000 the prior period that was higher than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a drop to 370,000. Revisions to previous data have been larger than normal and the government is trying to determine the cause, a Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released to the press.

COMMENT:  That's a lot of lingo to say that the jobs market did not perform up to expectations last week, nor did it the week before, or the week before that.  After a period of progress, the progress suddenly stopped several weeks ago.

The magic number for unemployment claims is 400,000.  If the figure is over 400,000, the economy is in trouble.  It was over that number for many months, then slipped back, and some observers thought the jobs picture was improving.  Now, clearly, over the most recent weeks, the number has been creeping back toward 400,000.  If it reaches that number again, a psychological watershed will have been crossed.

Nor is job creation going well.  We need to create 150,000 new jobs every month just to keep pace with population growth.  Last month's figure was below even that. 

Obama doesn't want to take these trends into November.  But he apparently will have no choice.

April 19,  2012