Jobless Claims Queue Keeps Shrinking

August 7, 2003 ( - The line for Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits keeps getting shorter.

The US Department of Labor (DoL) reported that the August 2 claims total dipped for the third straight week – this time by 3,000 to 390,000 from a revised 393,000 in the prior period. Representing the third straight week the totals were below the key 400,000 mark – a widely accepted benchmark dividing a growing job market from a stagnant one – analysts said the latest DoL data could represent a strengthening in the domestic employment picture.

Last week’s claims were the lowest for any week since February 8, when they totaled 378,000.

Adding to the impression of an improving job market, the DoL said the four-week claims moving average, which irons out weekly variations, also fell below the 400,000-a-week level. The latest data showed that the average was 397,250, a decrease of 12,750 from the previous week’s revised 410,000.

Once again, the August 2 report was below the expectations of Wall Street analysts in a regular Reuters survey who had been calling for 395,000 claims.

DoL announced recently that the nation’s unemployment rate had dropped to 6.2% in June but that market was still shedding jobs (See  Jobless Rate Drops; Employers Still Slashing Positions ).