Unemployment insurance claims fell by 5,000 compared to the previous week, down to 330,000. This is the fewest number of new unemployment claims in five years, since January 19, 2008. Forecasts estimated 355,000 claims, but the actual figures are about 7 percent lower.
Applications for unemployment insurance had to be estimated for some states, such as California, Hawaii, and Virginia due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday- shortened week, but trends for these and most other states were lower than expected.
Unemployment figures for those continuously receiving benefits are also down for the week, dropping to 3.16 million, a decline of 71,000 from the previous week. This is the lowest number since July, 2008 and it points toward an improving job market.
Lower unemployment claims and fewer long- term unemployed may be viewed as proof that the financial policies of the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress are working, but critics are quick to point out that the decline is more the result of the holiday shopping period coming to an end and to timing and has little to do with the political and economic measures passed in Washington. These critics expect the number of weekly claims to tick higher before January, 2013 is through.
Still, when the overall unemployment numbers are examined and compared to previous years, the figures ultimately point toward an improving economy. The pace is still slower than many would like, but the number of unemployed and the unemployment rate continue to decline in 2013 with no signs of slowing down. Economists predict that unemployment will keep up its downward slide through the end of the year.
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