Some good news.
It's been quite a long time since initial unemployment claims reached a level this low. How long? Nearly six years.Maddow BlogSignaling a slower pace of layoffs, the number of people who applied for new jobless benefits fell 15,000 to 320,000 in the week that ended Aug. 10, hitting the lowest level of initial claims since October 2007, according to government data released Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected a claims level of 333,000, matching an original estimate for the prior week. On Thursday, the government slightly revised the initial claims level to 335,000 for the week that ended Aug. 3. The average of new claims over the past month, a more reliable gauge than the volatile weekly number, fell 4,000 to 332,000, also reaching the lowest level since the weeks leading up to the start of the Great Recession.
Although there are still way too many people unemployed, this is good news. It's a good trend that might have been greater without the austerity imposed on the nation the last few years. In a few years we may reach higher levels of employment, but even if we do, don't forget that in 2007, this was a greatly stratified society with huge problems.
Here is an excerpt from an article in the New York Times in July 2007, an era now seen almost as "good times."
Those earlier barons disappeared by the 1920s and, constrained by the Depression and by the greater government oversight and high income tax rates that followed, no one really took their place. Then, starting in the late 1970s, as the constraints receded, new tycoons gradually emerged, and now their concentrated wealth has made the early years of the 21st century truly another Gilded Age.NY Times, July 15, 2007, The Richest of the Rich, Proud of a New Gilded Age
Only twice before over the last century has 5 percent of the national income gone to families in the upper one-one-hundredth of a percent of the income distribution — currently, the almost 15,000 families with incomes of $9.5 million or more a year, according to an analysis of tax returns by the economists Emmanuel Saez at the University of California, Berkeley and Thomas Piketty at the Paris School of Economics.
Such concentration at the very top occurred in 1915 and 1916, as the Gilded Age was ending, and again briefly in the late 1920s, before the stock market crash. Now it is back, and Mr. Weill is prominent among the new titans. His net worth exceeds $1 billion, not counting the $500 million he says he has already given away, in the open-handed style of Andrew Carnegie and the other great philanthropists of the earlier age.
More jobs is essential. People got to eat. But it is a long struggle to a more decent society and there is much work to be done. The inequality has not gone away.
Update I: More from Bloomberg News:
Claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly dropped last week to the lowest level in almost six years, signaling the U.S. job market continues to mend.Bloomberg
The number of applications for unemployment insurance payments declined by 15,000 to 320,000 in the week ended Aug. 10, the fewest since October 2007, from a revised 335,000, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 44 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 335,000. There was nothing unusual in the data and no states were estimated, a Labor Department spokesman said as the data was released to the press.
The slowdown in firings may be a precursor to a pickup in hiring, which would bolster household incomes and spending. Fewer dismissals are also helping boost consumer confidence as growth in the world’s largest economy shows signs of picking up in the second half of 2013.
“The labor market is improving,” said Brian Jones, a senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, who projected 322,000, the closest of all economists surveyed by Bloomberg. “We’ve got decent momentum on consumer spending” heading into the third quarter, he said.