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Stocks are at a five-year high, and lo and behold, jobless claims are at a five-year low.

In this morning’s data, we saw new jobless benefits fall sharply last week. Applications for initial unemployment benefits sank -27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 341,000 in the week ended Feb. 9, the Labor Department said. The four-week moving average was 352,000. Last week’s claims are now just slightly above a five-year low.

This beat all estimates.  Economists surveyed expected a much smaller drop to 360,000 from a revised 368,000 in the prior week. Last year, the average was 361,000.

As more evidence of jobs market improvement, the continuing claims figures improved too.  This does not include those receiving extended benefits under federal programs.  The number of citizens continuing to receive jobless benefits declined -130,000 to 3.11 million in the week ended Feb. 2, the lowest level since July 2008.  Last year, the number was 3.44 million.

This is the key:  This drop of -300K with a 150M labor force means a drop of -0.2% in the unemployment rate over last year.

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits, which tends to track the jobless rate, fell to 2.4% in the week ended Feb. 2, from 2.5% in the prior week.

What is your take?  Is this a durable sign of a change in labor market conditions?

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