Unemployment Benefits: Fewer Claims, Improving Economy?

Like the first few crocuses poking their little crocus-heads out of the ground after winter, it seems that there may be a few signs of a demonstrably improving economy in the United States. (Well, that analogy only really works if we’re talking about a God-forsaken ten-year long winter, but still.)

Americans are starting to up their discretionary spending, splashing out on non-necessities like Halloween candy. And today came news of a slight drop in unemployment claims, perhaps a sign of an improving jobs outlook for the US? The October jobs report from Uncle Sam is due out tomorrow, and while unemployment is expected to hold steady at a still depressing 9.1%, claims have fallen five out of the past six weeks, meaning that perhaps fewer Americans require unemployment benefits.

As expected, the sustained bump is being treated with cautious optimism- on one hand, the past few weeks have been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal year for job growth. On the other, Americans will have to wait and see if added jobs can keep up with population growth- a rate we’ll need 100,000 new jobs every month to sustain. The Washington Post spoke to an analyst about what the figures mean and speculated upon whether companies have cut back on cutbacks:

Should the gradual decline seen in recent weeks continue, this would mark an important sign” that the job market is improving, Peter Newland, an economist at Barclays Capital, said in a note to clients.

The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, fell to 404,500, the fifth drop in the past six weeks. The declines indicate that companies are laying off fewer workers.

The bright spot follows bleak revisions from the Fed on the US economic outlook for 2011 and 2012. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke commented yesterday that growth is likely to be “frustratingly slow” following the “sharply” revised predictions for 2011 and 2012.

[Image: Shutterstock]