Jobless claims fell to 348,000 for the week ended March 17, slightly lower than the revised total of 353,000 for the previous week. The four-week average remains well below the 400,000 mark, suggesting that the jobs market remains on a decent footing. The four-week moving average declined modestly to 355,000, also a solid result.
Having now broken below 350,000, today’s report signaled the best week for initial claims since February 2008.
Gains in payrolls over the past three months have been robust by recent standards, but the economy’s moderate growth path limits the likelihood of a meaningful acceleration in the pace of job creation. The result is an unemployment rate that appears likely to grind slowly lower over an extended period even under optimistic scenarios.
Data suggesting that the Chinese economy is slowing more than anticipated has ramped up anxiety about the direction of the global economy. With much of Europe already slipping into recession, the U.S. economy will be pushing against significant external headwinds to accelerate in the quarters ahead.
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