Jobless Claims Fall But Still Show Sluggish Market

June 19, 2003 ( - Fewer people are being forced to join the queue for those needing first-time jobless benefits, but the number of initial unemployment claims has stubbornly stayed above a recessionary benchmark for more than four months.

According to the latest US Department of Labor (DoL) data, first-time requests for jobless aid dropped 13,000 to 421,000 for the week ending June 14 from a revised 434,000 the week before. That was the second straight weekly decline (See  Jobless Claims Drop in More Good Job Market News). Further, the four-week moving average – a closely watched indicator because it irons out short-term volatility – fell to 432,000 from 435,000 in the prior week.

The problem: New claims have held above the key 400,000 mark for 18 straight weeks, while the four-week moving average stayed above that level for 16 weeks. Economists view the 400,000 level as a sign of a stagnant job market.

The number of people continuing to draw weekly benefits fell 62,000 to 3.72 million in the week ended June 7, the latest week for which data was available.

Analysts participating in Reuters’ weekly poll had been expecting 426,000 first-time claims for the week ended June 14 compared with the 430,000 originally reported in the prior week.