Our regular host for the weekly initial jobless claims analysis is winging his way out west for the funeral of his uncle, so I’m filling in on this one. For once, Reuters expected this bit of economic news:

New claims for unemployment benefits fell as expected last week, a government report showed on Thursday, showing little sign of a pick-up in layoffs in the wake of a slump in business and consumer confidence.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 409,000, the Labor Department said, still pointing to a jobs market struggling to find strength, but well short of a recession signal.

While the last sentence doesn’t count as a full return to the 400K-is-good-news myth Ed exposed, it isn’t exactly well short of a recession signal. Fox Business’ Stuart Varney said on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” said that the continued over-400K number is a “danger zone”. One of the other sets of numbers in the weekly release, the listing of the number of people in all the unemployment plans, provides a peek into just how bad things are.

During the week ending August 13, roughly 3.6 million people were in the regular unemployment insurance programs. Another 3.7 million people were receiving some sort of extended unemployment benefits. Both were up from the prior week.

A second datum point is Gallup’s end-of-August estimate of unemployment, using seasonally-unadjusted numbers. Gallup estimates that at the end of August, 9.1% of people were unemployed and 9.4% of people wanted full-time work but were only working part-time. Both were up from the end of July, and the latter number was higher than the same period in 2010. Gallup also said in its writeup, “This data further confirm Gallup’s mid-month prediction that the August unemployment rate that the government will report Friday will be higher than the 9.1% it reported in July — barring another sizable decline in the U.S. workforce or an unusual seasonal adjustment.”

What is President Obama’s big idea for reducing the number of the chronically unemployed? While his Big Jobs 3.0 Speech isn’t until next week, he let slip a key element of that yesterday. The Huffington Post caught Obama saying on the Tom Joyner Morning Show yesterday that the creation of a new anti-discrimination class, the unemployed, was the solution (H/T – Rob Port; typo in the HuffPo piece):

“But we have seen instances in which employers are explicitly saying we don’t want to take a look at folks who’ve been unemployed,” the president said.

“Well, that makes absolutely no sense, and I know there’s legislation that I’m supportive of that says you cannot discriminate against folks because they’ve been unemployed, particularly when you’ve seen so many folks who, through no fault of their own, ended up being laid off because of the difficulty of this recession.”

Never mind that allowing laywers to seek profit on the backs of the unemployed will only serve to reduce the amount of capital available to actually hire employees, whether or not the potential employees are freshly laid off or about ready to exhaust their 99 weeks of unemployment compensation.

Revisions/extensions – Reuters has updated their story to wipe out the “as expected” bit. I wasn’t the only person to notice the earlier version though; Tom Blumer also did (and he also noticed the revision downward).