Weekly jobless claims of 382,000 tell a relatively straightforward story: the downward trend that took claims below 400,000 earlier this year was not an aberration, but evidence of the next phase of the labor market recovery.
The smoothed 4-week moving average also dipped to about 385,000, marginally better than one week ago.
As is the typical post-recessionary pattern, the jobs market has been slow to gather steam even as the broad economy has transitioned from recovery to expansion.
Concurrent with the better employment landscape, consumer confidence is also improving, with that index recently reaching a three-year high. While this represents a meaningful improvement from the depths of the recession, confidence still remains at historically depressed levels.
Looking forward, expectations are building for improvement in the non-farm payrolls for March. A sustained improvement in the pace of job creation would go a long way toward boosting consumer confidence and supporting consumer spending.
The ultimate goal is the creation of a virtuous cycle that can drive broad economic growth so fiscal and monetary stimuli can be phased out.
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