Falling initial claims number raises hopes U.S. economy added jobs in April

05/06/2010 10:29 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment dropped last week, numbers announced by the Labor Department today show.

That raised hopes that tomorrow’s employment number will show the economy added jobs in April. Economists are expecting that data to be reported tomorrow will show that the economy added 160,000 to 180,000 jobs in April.

The consensus among economists is that the official unemployment rate, which doesn’t include discouraged workers who have stopped looking for work or part-time workers who would like full-time jobs, will stay stuck at 9.7%.

 I‘d say today’s data shows progress. But it’s painfully slow progress.

 Initial claims for unemployment fell by 7,000 to 444,000 in the week ended on May 1. That’s the third consecutive weekly drop.

 What’s called the continuing claims number, the number of people continuing to receive unemployment benefits, dropped in the week ended April 24 to 4.59 million.

But part of that drop is a fluke of what the number counts. It doesn’t include the long-term unemployed who have exhausted regular unemployment benefits and are now receiving extended benefits under bills passed by Congress to fight the effects of the Great Recession.

 The number of long-term unemployed who are receiving extended benefits rose by 153,000 to 5.56 million in the week ended April 17.

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