Although its numbers are subject to revision, the U.S. Labor Department reported on Jan. 5 that initial claims for unemployment insurance dropped dramatically last week to 291,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. Last week's total was 35,000 fewer than the previous week's revised total of 326,000. If the numbers hold up, they will mark the lowest level of jobless claims since millennium year 2000.
The department's four-week moving average of initial claims, often considered a better barometer of underlying labor market trends because it smooths out week-to-week changes, also dropped last week. The average for the week ending Dec. 31, 2005, was 316,750, a decrease of 9,250 claims from the previous week's revised average of 326,000 claims.