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Jobless claims continue to improve

The general trend in initial unemployment claims has been quite positive of late, and the newly released figures from the Department of Labor reinforce this.

Signaling a slight slowdown in the pace of layoffs, the number of people who applied for new U.S. unemployment-insurance benefits declined by 6,000 to 331,000 in the week that ended Aug. 24, according to government data released Thursday. Meanwhile, the four-week moving average of initial claims for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits ticked up 750 to 331,250, but remained close to the lowest level since late 2007, near the start of the Great Recession, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.

In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. At this point, we've been below 350,000 in 16 of the last 21 weeks.

Above you'll find the chart showing weekly, initial unemployment claims going back to the beginning of 2007. (Remember, unlike the monthly jobs chart, a lower number is good news.) For context, I've added an arrow to show the point at which President Obama's Recovery Act began spending money.