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Continued slow progress in the labor market

The 4-week moving average of weekly unemployment claims has dipped to a new post-recession low, and the weekly number has surprised the market for the past few weeks by coming in a bit below expectations. What's driving this is not an actual decline in claims, but the fact that claims (which normally are increasing at this time of the year) are not increasing. Still, this is good news since it implies that companies on average are a bit leaner and meaner than they have been for some time, and have less reason to lay people off. Relative to the total number of employed (second chart), unemployment claims are showing a modest improvement on the margin. No sign of a double-dip, but no signs either of strong growth.

Meanwhile, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits continues to decline, albeit slowly.

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