Jobless Claims Touch 4 Year Low

 |  Includes: DIA, JOB, KFY, MAN, PG, RHI, YHOO
by: Markos Kaminis

The Weekly Initial Jobless Claims data came in today at its four-year low. The data did not break new ground, though, while touching the same point reached just a few weeks ago.

Weekly Jobless Claims decreased by 14,000 in rediscovering its 351K watermark in the week ending March 10. The result marked improvement over the revised prior week level, which was raised to 365K from 362K. The four-week moving average of jobless claims illustrates the somewhat settled-in new standard for the flow of freshly unemployed. It was unchanged at a mark of 355,750.

The insured unemployment rate, which measures the number of folks continuing to claim benefits, fell to 2.6% in the March 3 period, from 2.7% the week before. The total count of continuing claims numbered 3,343,000, which was an 81K improvement. Here the four-week moving average again provides a more reliable measure of trend, and it was down by 25,250, to 3,394,250.

I prefer to look at the number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits of some sort, including through the benefits extension program. This figure increased by 36,392 in the week ending February 25, rising to 7.424 million Americans. Unfortunately, its decreasing trend over the last several years is only partly due to improving labor conditions. It is also influenced by the long-term unemployed falling out of qualification for the unemployment benefit extension program.

Labor conditions have been gaining, with non-farm payrolls rising by 227K in February and the unemployment rate holding ground at 8.3%. While the rate held ground, it was lower than recent hard times.

After just breaking above 13,000 this week, the Dow Jones Industrials average looked like it had support again today based on the report. The SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (NYSEARCA:DIA) was up fractionally in the pre-market but fluttered around its prior close in early trading. Stocks of employment services firms should benefit a bit today from the news. The shares of Robert Half International (NYSE:RHI), Korn/Ferry International (NYSE:KFY), Manpower (NYSE:MAN) and General Employment Enterprises (NYSEMKT:JOB) all exhibit charts that seem to show tiring positive trends. Still, they are supported by this latest report. Workers at Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) are probably not enthused, as many at these firms are expected to face the firing line in the near-term.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.