Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's remark that a recession is "possible" sounds even more pointed today as the Labor Department announced this morning that weekly jobless claims reached a two-year high. The number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose by 38,000 to 407,000 in the week ending March 29. That was considerably higher than economists forecast and up sharply from the 319,000 jobless claims a year earlier.
The one silver lining is that the Labor Department adjusts these numbers for seasonal factors, such as holidays. The early arrival of Easter this year might have affected reporting and skewed the numbers. To see just how bad things really are, economists will be looking at a government report on nonfarm payroll jobs to be released Friday.