The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell last week to the lowest level in five years, evidence that employers are cutting fewer jobs and may step up hiring.
The Labor Department says weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 330,000. That’s the fewest since January 2008. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 351,750. That’s also the lowest in nearly five years.
The decline may reflect the government’s difficulty adjusting its numbers to account for layoffs after the holiday shopping season. Layoffs spike in the second week of January and then plummet. The department seeks to adjust for those trends, but the figures can still be volatile.
That’s fabulous, if true. I have a dear friend who simply couldn’t get through to the Massachusetts unemployment office because they had put up so many roadblocks. 1. You could only apply one day a week, the day determined by your SS#. 2. You could only apply by phone, not in person and not online. 3. They take you through a series of prompts and then a computer voice says, “Due to high volume, we cannot take this call at this time”. 4. When you call back, the same thing happens. Friday is a free day, so technically everyone has two days per week in which to attempt to sign up. My friend spent all day Friday and almost all day yesterday attempting to sign up. Finally, she called her state rep and received assistance. So, here’s the question: Are these numbers really improving or has the government simply made it appear that way by refusing to sign people up?