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New Jobless Claims Continue to Hover Above 400,000

"We’re running in place."

New claims for unemployment benefits topped out at 403,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. A month ago, it was 422,250.

Granted, it’s a drop from the initially projected figure of 409,000, but the fact that this figure is one under which "economists generally believe the jobs market is really starting to improve" says very little the current job market.

Some economists have described the recent numbers as "thin gruel," "not great" and "painfully slow improvement," reports CNN Money.

“We’re running in place,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates Inc., who projected 405,000 claims. The data are “consistent with lackluster to moderate growth in the job market and the economy,” he said in a recent Bloomberg article.

Others have remained a little more optimistic.

"This decline in initial claims signals the potential for an improvement in the pace of job creation in October relative to recent months," said John Ryding, an economist with RDQ Economics in a recent CNBC report.

"However, we are still waiting for that decisive move in claims below the 400,000 mark to send a stronger signal that payroll growth is running at a pace that will begin to make sustained inroads into unemployment," he added.

As mentioned earlier, economists have been looking to see the number of claims fall below 400,000 to signal a lower unemployment rate. However, the claims have been stuck at around or above the 400,000 level since April, reports CNN.

According to one  Labor Department official speaking with the Wall Street Journal, “there was nothing unusual about the latest state level data.”

The unemployment rate has remained at 9.1 percent since July, and without a bigger drop in claims, there is little reason to hope for much improvement.

Thursday's report also showed that the unemployment rate for workers with unemployment insurance for the week ending Oct. 8 remained unchanged from the prior week at 2.9 percent, reports the Journal.

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits rose 25,000 to 3.7 million. But that doesn't include several million additional laid-off workers receiving extended benefits under an emergency program paid for by the federal government and put in place during the recession.

The state-by-state breakdown in initial jobless claims, which is also released with a lag, showed the biggest rise the week ended Oct. 8 was in California, writes the Journal. Claims there rose by 13,882 amid more layoffs in the service industry. The largest decline in claims was in Wisconsin, down 1,536.

All told, 6.7 million people received benefits in the week ended Oct. 1, according the latest Labor Department data.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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