New jobless claims for the week of March 13th dropped 5,000 to 457,000 as expected and there was no revision to the prior week's 462,000. The four-week moving average also shifted lower to 471,300 from 475,500.
Continuing claims, the number of people who have been receiving payments for at least two weeks, rose to 4.579 million in the March 5th week from 4.567 million. The government has two other programs for disbursing benefits to the unemployed: 'emergency unemployment compensation benefits' and 'extended unemployment insurance benefits'. Emergency claims jumped 358,000 in the last week of February to 5.888 million, the highest on record. The number of people obtaining extended benefits fell to 156,000 from 163,300 in the same week.
In total, the number of people on the unemployment rolls in the last week of February rose 449,000 to 10.611 million, also a record, surpassing the previous high of 10.5669 at the end of January. The peak in continuing claims, the most reported of the long-term unemployment programs, was last summer at 6.904 million. To the latest week continuing claims have fallen more than 2.325 million. In that same period emergency claims, the largest additional benefits program, have gone from 2.597 million to 5.888 million, a gain of 3.291 million.
The unemployment rate has shed 0.4% since October to 9.7%, but that is more telling of the many people who have left the search for work. Even if you are not looking for a job, the bills still need to be paid and the table set with food. The number of people receiving government assistance is truer measure of the cost of the recession's job destruction than the somewhat artificial boundaries of the unemployment percentage. These folks will have to find work before the recovery can become sustaining.
Chief Market Analyst, FX Solutions