Jobs trend improves despite weekly rise in claims

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped by 16,000 last week, the second straight weekly increase. But the longer-term trend in layoffs remained consistent with an improved job market.

Applications increased to a seasonally adjusted 357,000 for the week ending March 23, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s up from 341,000 the previous week, which was revised slightly higher.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 2,250 to 343,000. Even with the gain, the average is only slightly higher than the previous week’s five-year low of 340,750. Economists pay closer attention to the four-week average because it smooths out week-to-week fluctuations.

Despite the two weeks of higher initial unemployment claims, “the overall trend of stronger labor market growth continues,” Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients.

First-time applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have been declining steadily since November. At the same time, hiring has accelerated, lowering the unemployment rate in February to a four-year low of 7.7 percent.

Unemployment benefit applications surged during the recession as companies slashed millions of jobs. The number of people seeking aid averaged only 320,000 a week in 2007. That figure soared to 418,000 in 2008 and 574,000 in 2009.

But as layoffs and firings eased, applications for unemployment aid slowly but steadily came down. They fell to 459,000 in 2010, 409,000 in 2011, and 375,000 last year. Through the first 12 weeks of this year they are averaging roughly 353,000.

The total number of people receiving some kind of unemployment aid is also down sharply. Nearly 5.5 million people were receiving unemployment aid as of the week ended March 9, the latest data available. That’s up roughly 87,000 from than the previous week but still well below the 7.2 million from a year earlier. The data on total unemployment benefit recipients are not seasonally adjusted and are volatile.

Hiring is up, too. Employers have added an average of 200,000 jobs per month since November. That’s nearly double the average from last spring. And economists expect similar job gains in March, in part because of the steady decline in layoffs.

The economy has been showing other signs of strength. U.S. home prices rose 8.1 percent in January, the fastest annual rate since the peak of the housing boom in the summer of 2006. And demand for longer-lasting factory goods jumped 5.7 percent in February, most in five months.

Still, the job market and the economy have a long way to go back to full health. The United States has 3 million fewer jobs than it did when the Great Recession began in December 2007. And home prices are down 29 percent from their peak at the height of the housing bubble in August 2006.

More in Herald Business Journal

Tulalips break ground on new Quil Ceda Creek Casino Hotel

A 150-room hotel was added to what is now a $140 million complex expected to open in spring 2019.

For modern women, 98-year-old rejection letters still sting

In a stark new video, female Boeing engineers break the silence about past inopportunity.

Teddy, an English bulldog, models Zentek Clothing’s heat regulating dog jacket. (Ian Terry / The Herald)
Everett clothing company keeps your dog cool and stylish

Zentek uses space-age fabrics to moderate the temperature of pets and now humans.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Merger would make Providence part of health care behemoth

Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are said to be talking. Swedish would also be affected.

Boeing raises dividend 20%, continues stock buyback program

The manufacturer said it has repurchased $9.2 billion worth of its shares this year.

Trudeau snubs Boeing, unveils plan to buy used Aussie jets

Trudeau will be assessing the impact fighter jet contracts have on his country’s economy.

Everett engineers learn lessons from Mexico City catastrophe

Structural scientists went to help after the September earthquake there and studied the damage.

As SpaceX eyes another first, Blue Origin returns to flight

Jeff Bezos got a step closer to flying tourists to space Tuesday.

Hospital companies merge as insurers encroach on their turf

An anticipated deal between Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension is only the latest.

Most Read