Jobless Claims Break Upward Cycle; Drop 15,000 in Latest Report

March 13, 2003 ( - The drumbeat of bad jobless news finally eased with word that the number of initial unemployment benefits claims dropped last week after rising for three straight reports before that.

According to the US Department of Labor (DoL), the jobless claims for the week ending March 8 were 420,000, down 15,000 from the revised 435,000 figure the week before. The four-week moving average, considered a better gauge of labor conditions because it smoothes out weekly fluctuations, jumped to 419,750 from a revised 410,000, the DoL said.  Claims for the March 1 week were up by 12,000 (See  Jobless Claims Rise by 12,000 in Latest Week).

The jobless claims drop for the March 8 period was in line with average predictions made by economists in Reuters’ regular poll. They forecast a drop to 419,000 from the 430,000 claims originally reported for the March 1 week.

Thursday’s latest report followed last week’s shockingly grim unemployment rate picture that showed the economy had shed a whopping 308,000 non-farm jobs during February in the sharpest payroll plunge since November 21. The February unemployment rate ticked up slightly from 5.7% in January to 5.8% in February (See   Grim February Employment Picture Shows 308,000 Job Losses ).

While the latest DoL jobless claims data is a touch of good news amid a sea of disturbing economic indicators, the March 8 totals were still significantly over the 400,000 claims mark, which economists agree represents a largely moribund job-production machine.