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First Cut: Initial jobless claims in week ended March 16 returning to underlying trend

Initial jobless claims in the week ended March 16 fell 9,000 to 221,000 after 230,000 in the prior week (previously 229,000).  The four-week moving average was up 1,000 to 225,000, suggesting that an underlying trend somewhere in the 220,000-230,00 range is consistent with present labor market conditions. There were no special factors cited and no states estimated claims.

Claims are likely to be noisy over the coming weeks. Massive flooding in Nebraska and school systems closed for spring break on top of a late timing of the Easter holiday (April 1) should all contribute. However, these are short-term events and should not mask the fundamental health of the labor market.

The Labor Department announced annual revisions and updates to seasonal adjustment factors will be released with the data on March 28.

Continuing claims fell 27,000 to 1.750 million in the March 9 week and the insured rate of unemployment remained at 1.2%. Laid off workers are remaining on the rolls for shorter periods and the rate of unemployment indicates there are plenty of openings for job seekers.

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