There's good economic news today, at least for those who only scan headlines. On USA Today's Web site, the headline is "Weekly jobless claims at lowest level in over 3 years." Oh, happy day! The president's stimulus is finally working. But if you read the Associated Press story under the headline, the news isn't quite so sanguine:
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose last week after three straight weeks of declines to a level consistent with a modest pick-up in hiring.
That broader trend of jobless claims over the past month boltsters (sic) the view that job growth could pick up in 2012.
Weekly applications increased by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 381,000 the week ended Dec. 24, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped for the fourth straight week to 375,000. That's the lowest level since June 2008, before the financial and housing markets meltdown that precipitated a recession.
So contrary to what's suggested by the headline, last week's jobless claims weren't at the lowest level in over three years. The four-week average, "a less volatile measure," is. Last week, more people filed claims than the week before.
In fact, the Department of Labor reported that for the week ending December 24, the non-seasonally adjusted number of initial jobless claims shot up by more than 69,000.
But why let that interfere with a great headline?