Initial Claims for Unemployment benefits report was released today by the Employment and Training Administration of the Department of Labor. The figures showed new claims totaling 348k in the week ending March 17th. Analysts had expected the figures to show around 355k. The figure comes on the back of last week’s 351k and the week before’s 364k. The new figure shows an increasing stability in the levels of people seeking unemployment benefits. This is advantageous as the economy recovers from a volatile time for employment rates. The initial claims will be seen as a stabilising factor, though the lack of a sizeable drop in numbers remains disappointing.

The frequency with which these figures are released, weekly, make them difficult to use as an accurate depiction of the housing market. Several volatile factors can alter the numbers drastically on a weekly basis. For this reason a four week rolling average is often employed to make sense of the figures in a more durable way. For the week ending March 17th that average was at 355k. The rolling average has been trending down for some time though worries abound that it has simply leveled off now and won’t be dropping dramatically any time soon. Such fears have been buoyed by some less than exceptional economic data, particularly this week’s housing market numbers, that suggest recovery may not be as straightforward as had previously been hoped.

Problems for the US economy include the continued sluggishness of the housing market and the price of oil. The most prominent issue is still one of employment however. The country’s unemployment rate has been falling in general but last month’s numbers stayed almost flat and the data released since has not been the most confidence building. The indicators certainly suggest the US economy is not going backwards but recovery may have hit a bump along the road. The four week moving average had been declining week on week since January 7th when it stood at 382.5k. In recent weeks however that trend has at least slowed. The average reached a low of 355k and has been hovering at around that in recent weeks.

The initial claims report takes into account the filings for State Jobless benefits that are made in the week ending the previous Saturday.