After last month's annoyingly high unemployment report, the news that first-time unemployment benefits claims fell by 12,000 last week is a move in the right direction, albeit a modest one.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 377,000 people had applied for unemployment benefits last week, down from 389,000 the week before, but still above the 375,000 figure The Associated Press always likes to remind us "typically suggests hiring is strong enough to reduce the unemployment rate," which last week clicked up to 8.2 percent. The four-week moving average, a more stable number, was 377,750, "an increase of 1,750 from the previous week's revised average of 376,000," the DOL reported.
The report comes as the Federal Reserve makes noises about possible economic stimulus in light of last week's bad unemployment figures, with vice-chair Janet Yellen saying on Wednesday, "An extended period of highly accommodative policy is necessary to combat the persistent headwinds to recovery." With last week's figure fueling a fresh round of attacks on the president over a sluggish economic recovery, expect this week's number to provide more fodder for his critics as well as defenders, as it's a move in the right direction, but not a very strong one.