Unemployment Mumbo Jumbo, Jobless Numbers Rank Propaganda

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From CounterPunch.com – By DAVE LINDORFF — The U.S. stock market jumped up today on word that the number of new unemployment applications fell to the lowest level in four years.

Sounds good, right? It’s meant to sound good, but if you look at the number, and if you think about what it really means, it’s not good news at all.

What the U.S. Labor Department reported was that new unemployment claims filed for the week ended Feb. 24 totaled 351,000, which was slightly lower than the 353,000 new claims filed the prior week. “Slightly indeed!” A better term for this 0.57% decline is “statistically insignificant!”

Unemployment benefits aid begins. Line of men inside a State Employment Service office at San Francisco, Calif., waiting to register for benefits on one of the first days after the office opened in Jan. 1938.These workers will receive dfrom $6 to $15 per week for as long as 16 weeks. Twenty-two states begin paying unemployment compensation as national unemployment reached 10 million, 19% of the workforce. Photo: Lange, Dorothea,/Library of Congress

Unemployment benefits line, San Francisco, Jan. 1938

The idea that such a “drop” in new claims would spark a jump in the Dow or the S&P shows how completely divorced from reality investors really are.

But it is worse than that. The number, remember, is new unemployment claims. That is to say, over a third of a million more Americans were laid off last week. Anyone who sees that as some kind of good news is really stretching to find a silver lining on a pretty dark cloud.

Now I’ll grant you that from one perspective it’s good to see “only” 351,000 new people getting on the nation’s unemployment lines rather than the 589,000 who joined a line in December 2008. But the reason the number is smaller now is not that things have been getting better. It’s that there are fewer people to lay off. Companies and employers have already cut back their workforces to the bone, so for them to find another 351,000 people to sack, as they seem to be doing week after week, suggests they are really struggling.

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