Labor Market Weak Even As Jobless Claims Decline

By John S. McClenahen Although initial claims for unemployment insurance dropped by nearly 10% last week, they remain above 400,000, an indication of a weak U.S. labor market. For the week ending April 5, initial jobless claims were a seasonally adjusted 405,000, a decrease of 38,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 443,000, says the U.S. Labor Department's Employment & Training Administration. The department's four-week moving average for initial claims also declined to 419,500, a decrease of 3,750 from the previous week's 423,250. Both sets of data support the notion that, at least in manufacturing, it's been a "jobless" recovery from the 2001 recession. Indeed, the current situation is worse than the "jobless" recovery that followed the recession of the early 1990s, figures Daniel J. Meckstroth, chief economist for Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, an Arlington, Va.-based business policy group. Twenty-three months after its peak in July 1990, manufacturing employment was down 5.3%. Currently, manufacturing jobs are 9.4% below their most recent peak.

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