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Jobless claims jump, but remain below threshold

The recent news on initial unemployment claim has been terrific, but reports this time of year tend to be statistically noisy, and the reports came with caveats about seasonal quirks. Today, the new report from the Department of Labor points to a return to the recent norm.

The number of people who filed new applications for U.S. unemployment benefits climbed 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000 in the week ended Jan. 26, putting them at a one-month high, according to Labor Department data released Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims to climb to 355,000. Initial claims have returned to a level that prevailed through the later stages of 2012 after touching a five-year low earlier this month. Claims are often extremely jumpy in January after the end of the holidays and the start of a new year. Companies let go of temporary hires and some people wait until after the holidays to file claims. Initial claims from two weeks ago were unrevised at 330,000.

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. We've been below the 370,000 threshold seven of the last eight 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.