The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial claims, a notoriously volatile data point that is subject to large swings due to technical factors, rose a seasonally-adjusted 46,000 to 388,000. The four-week moving average, which smoothes out wrinkles in the data, rose 750 to 365,500. Both data points remain below 400,000, suggesting that the labor market is healing, although at a snail’s pace.
“Improvement in the labor market will continue to be fitful and slow,” said Joseph Trevisani, a market strategist at Worldwide Markets in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.
Last week, California reported a large drop in applications, pushing down the overall figure to the lowest since February 2008. This week, it reported a significant increase as it processed applications delayed from the previous week.
A department spokesman says the seasonally adjusted numbers “are being distorted … by an issue of timing.”
The government adjusts its readings for claims to take into account regular seasonal swings. Claims usually increase at the beginning of a quarter, but one state appears to be following a different pattern than normal in reporting its claims, which led to the wild fluctuations over the last couple of weeks, a department official said.