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Claims still point to very gradual and modest improvement

Weekly unemployment claims came in a bit higher than expected, but as the first chart shows, this counts as a minor blip; claims are going nowhere this year. But as the second chart shows, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits has dropped to a new low for the year. Undoubtedly there are folks who are still out of a job and hurting, but on balance, fewer people receiving claims means a) more people working, and b) an increased incentive for some to find and accept jobs on the margin. Yesterday, while walking around the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, I noticed quite a few "help wanted" signs in shop windows. I'd bet that those jobs don't pay more, after tax, than unemployment benefits, but I could be wrong.

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