Here is the opening statement from the Department of Labor:
In the week ending July 19, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 284,000, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for initial claims since February 18, 2006 when they were 283,000. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 302,000 to 303,000. The 4-week moving average was 302,000, a decrease of 7,250 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since May 19, 2007 when it was 302,000. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 309,000 to 309,250.
There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims. [See full report]
Today's seasonally adjusted number at 284K was well below the Investing.com forecast of 308K.
Here is a close look at the data over the past few years (with a callout for the past year), which gives a clearer sense of the overall trend in relation to the last recession and the volatility in recent months.
As we can see, there's a good bit of volatility in this indicator, which is why the 4-week moving average (the highlighted number) is a more useful number than the weekly data. Here is the complete data series.
Occasionally I see articles critical of seasonal adjustment, especially when the non-adjusted number better suits the author's bias. But a comparison of these two charts clearly shows extreme volatility of the non-adjusted data, and the 4-week MA gives an indication of the recurring pattern of seasonal change in the second chart (note, for example, those regular January spikes).
Because of the extreme volatility of the non-adjusted weekly data, a 52-week moving average gives a better sense of the secular trends. I've added a linear regression through the data. We can see that this metric continued to fall below the long-term trend stretching back to 1968.
A Four-Year Comparison
Here is a calendar-year overlay since 2009 using the 4-week moving average. The purpose is to show the relative annual slopes since the peak in the spring of 2009. Last year (blue line at the bottom) hit a trough at the end of September. The latest data point is the lowest since April 22, 2007.
For an analysis of unemployment claims as a percent of the labor force, see my recent commentary What Do Weekly Unemployment Claims Tell us About Recession Risk? Here is a snapshot from that analysis.
For a broader view of unemployment, see the latest update in my monthly series Unemployment and the Market Since 1948.