AP again sees jobless claims rise "unexpectedly"

Maybe the Associated Press should pick up a Roget’s Thesaurus … or buy a clue.  They report this morning that jobless claims rose “unexpectedly”, which indicates that the AP may have been sipping a little too much of the Porkulus Kool-Aid of late.  Analysts predicted a drop, but the continuing decline in consumer confidence may be taking its toll:

The number of newly laid off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week as the recovery of the nation’s battered labor market proceeds in fits and starts.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of new jobless claims rose to 480,000 last week, up 7,000 from the previous week. That was a worse performance than the decline to 465,000 that economists had expected. …

Unemployment claims have been on a downward trend since this summer. That improvement is seen as a sign that jobs cuts are slowing and hiring could pick up as soon as early next year. But the rise in weekly claims of 7,000 last week, which had followed an increase of 19,000 the previous week, shows that the improvement has been halting.

Halting, as in stalled.  Jobless claims are lower than they were earlier in the year, but that’s a function related to the jobs already lost.  Businesses are still shedding jobs; they’re just shedding them at a lower rate.  That’s because the most expendable jobs have already been lost.  Now businesses are cutting back even further as they foresee no big recovery in the near future, no reason to expand staffs for a demand that does not appear to be on the horizon.

That isn’t an improvement in job creation; it’s a slightly lower rate of job loss.  The latter is also positive, but it’s hardly anything to brag about.  Job losses should have started declining months ago, not just in the last few weeks, if the stimulus programs of the Obama administration were at all effective.  That means that jobless claims will bounce up and down for a long while, which is not “unexpected” at all.

When jobless claims hit a floor number, then analysts believe that job creation has begun, or at least that the net number of jobs is not changing.  But that floor number appears to have gotten a little editing from the AP, too.  Earlier, analysts had used a number between 325,000 and 350,000 jobless claims as the break-even point.  The AP lifts that significantly:

Analysts believe that claims need to fall to about 425,000 for several weeks to signal the economy is actually beginning to add jobs.

Maybe by next month, that number will be 500,000, and the AP can claim that we’ve been adding jobs all along.