Initial claims for unemployment improved slightly last week to 387,000. This was down 2,000 from the revised figure of 389,000 in the prior week but missed expectations of 380,000.

The less volatile 4-week moving average continued to climb, however, rising 3,500 to 386,250. This is its highest level since early December and underscores the struggling U.S. labor market.

At a press conference yesterday following the release of the FOMC statement, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled that the central bank would take more action beyond an extension of “Operation Twist” if there wasn’t “sustained improvement in the labor market”. Unfortunately this report isn’t showing that “sustained improvement”.

You can see in the chart below that jobless claims have been in a narrow range between 350K and 400K all year. But lately claims have been trending higher towards the 400K level, which has also correlated with a rise in the U-6 employment rate.


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