The number of people filing for first time unemployment benefits gained only slightly but continued in recessionary levels for the week ending September 27th, according to the US Department of Labor. Claims gained 1,000, to 497,000, coming in at the highest levels since September 2001. Economists were expecting 475,000 new claims for the week. Initial claims running consistently atop the 350,000 mark would signal some weakening in the labor market. Claims above 400,000 are seen by many as a signal of recession.

Having witnessed extremely volatile measurements in the past few weeks, it is wise to consider the four-week moving average of initial claims, which smooths out one-time factors such as bad weather or holidays. The four-week moving average was also higher, by 11,500 in the latest week, to 474,000.

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