Weekly Jobless Report: A Bright Spot Amid Dark Clouds

May 1, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The US unemployment picture brightened a bit last week, but the long-slumbering job market is far from being out of the woods.

The US Department of Labor (DoL) reported a 13,000-drop in the number of first-time jobless claims to 448,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 461,000 for the week ending April 26. But there were still three lingering problem areas in the DoL data:

  • the four-week claims moving average – widely viewed as a more reliable measure because it irons out short-term volatility – rose to 442,000, its highest level in more than a year, from the previous week’s revised average of 440,750
  • In a sign that it is taking people a while to find a new job, the number of so-called continued claims rose by 110,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.7 million for the week ended April 19, the most recent week for which data were available. That was the highest level since June 2002.
  • it was the eleventh straight week claims have been above the key 400,000 level, which economists use as a benchmark of a weak labor market.

Economists participating in Reuters regular poll overestimated the extent of the claims drop, predicting it would fall to 432,000. The latest DoL summary followed the report for the April 19 week of an 8,000-claims increase (See

Unemployment Claims Highest in More Than a Year ).