Initial Unemployment Claims Lowest in Seven Years

For the week ending April 5, initial unemployment claims came in at 300,000, a sharp decrease of 32,000 from the previous week's revised level, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

For the week ending April 5, initial unemployment claims came in at 300,000, a sharp decrease of 32,000 from the previous week’s revised level, according to the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday. The last time initial claims were this low was well before the recession—May 12, 2007—when they stood at 297,000. The four-week moving average, which tends to be less jumpy, was in fact a little jumpy last week, decreasing 4,750 from the previous week’s revised average.

“There were no special factors impacting this week’s initial claims,” Labor noted drily in a statement. Presumably, claims are so low because the labor market is actually experiencing some kind of health, since a level that low is generally associated with job growth, rather than merely maintaining current staffing levels.

In other employment-market news on Thursday, the U.S. House left for its Easter recess on Thursday without any action on a Senate bill, which passed on Monday with some Republican support, that would retroactively (back to January) restore benefits to about 2 million long-term unemployed who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits. The number of people in that situation grows by about 70,000 each week. Congress will return from recess on April 28.

Import prices rise, led by energy

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Thursday that U.S. import prices were up 0.6 percent in March, after a 0.9 percent increase in February. Higher prices for imported fuel and nonfuel both contributed to the rise. U.S. export prices were up, too, increasing 0.8 percent in March following a 0.7 percent advance the previous month.

Import fuel prices advanced 1.2 percent in March following a 5.3 percent rise the previous month. The March increase was driven by a 21.7 percent surge in natural gas prices. Overall import fuel prices increased 0.8 percent for the year ended in March as a whopping 115.3 percent jump in natural gas prices more than offset a 2.4 percent drop in petroleum prices.

Despite the recent monthly increases, import prices fell 0.6 percent over the past year. Import prices haven’t recorded a 12-month rise since an increase of 0.9 percent for the year ended July 2013.

Wall Street took a beating for no specific reason on Thursday—just time for a correction? —with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 266.96 points, or 1.62 percent, and the S&P 500 off 2.09 percent. The Nasdaq, led into the red by tech and biotech stocks in particular, was down 3.1 percent.