Jobless Claims and the Employment Picture

What one economist thinks the unemployment filings mean for the future.

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Here's a look at today's job-related data:

Initial jobless claims (the number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance the first time) last week were 479,000—the same as the week before, the Labor Department reported. Claims in the comparable period last year were 332,000.

Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, says: "There can be no question that the labor market is deteriorating; the only issue is the speed of the decline and the eventual peak in unemployment."

So, last month, the country lost 159,000—the biggest monthly loss since companies started shedding jobs in January. (You can check out the chart yourself here.) Shepherdson thinks we're headed for a monthly loss of 200,000 jobs. He also thinks we'll see the unemployment rate, now at 6.1 percent, top out at 8.5 percent, which is still considerably lower than the 10.8 percent rate seen in 1983.