Econintersect: The current unemployment situation graph:
Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims - 4 Week Average - Seasonally Adjusted - 2010 (blue line), 2011 (red line), 2012 (green line)
Follow up:Initial unemployment claims decreased from 386,000 (reported last week) to 353,000 this week. Last week's decline appears to have been an anomaly as some pundits suggested. Historically, claims exceeding 400,000 per week usually occur when employment gains are less than the workforce growth, resulting in an increasing unemployment rate (background here and here). The real gauge – the 4 week moving average – declined from 375,500 (reported last week) to 367,250. Because of the noise (week-to-week movements from abnormal events AND the backward revisions to previous weeks releases), the 4-week average remains the reliable gauge.