Thursday, February 9, 2012

Good News, Again

As Steve Benen at the Rachel Maddow Show blog notes, initial unemployment claims continued to dip. From the Department of Labor press release:
U.S. jobless claims fell by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 358,000 in the week ended Feb. 4, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had estimated claims would rise to 370,000. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up by 6,000 to 373,000. The four-week average of claims, meanwhile, dropped by 11,000 to 366,250, the lowest level since April 2008.
And Steve provides the following helpful chart:

And Steve notes:
In terms of metrics, keep in mind, when these jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape. When the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are actually being created rather quickly.
And we are finally below 370,000. All in all, this suggests that the numbers we've been seeing lately are not aberrations, but are evidence of a recovery with some legs.

For fun, we went to the St. Louis Fed to see what initial unemployment claims were under Clinton, Bush and Obama.

So clearly we have a ways to go, but it's also clear how god-awful the recession was. Clinton's initial unemployment claims peaked out at about 400,000, and Bush -- even with 9/11 didn't get much above 480,000. But Obama had to face a high of over 640,000 claims, 33% worse than Bush.

We can also see that last year's Euro crisis took quite a toll on the recovery.

We were doing OK through April, but then it took us about eight months to bounce back.

There's indirect but confirming evidence from another, and unorthodox, source. MisterMix at Balloon Juice says that this "explains why the Republican Party is ginning up the culture war—it’s easier than acknowledging that the economy is getting better."

And we think he's onto something. Fighting a war over contraception when only 2% of Catholic women rely on what is known as "natural family planning") seems ludicrous. But it does play well with the base. From the Public Religion Research Institute:

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