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Jobless picture slowly improving in U.S.

Adriene Hill Dec 29, 2011

Adriene Hill: The number of people applying for unemployment rose slightly last week, but the monthly average fell to its lowest level since 2008. So is it good news or bad?

To help figure it out we go live now to David Kelly. He’s the chief market strategist with JP Morgan Funds. Good morning David.

David Kelly: Glad to be here.

Hill: So we talk about these weekly unemployment numbers pretty much every week — but what do they really tell us?

Kelly: I think they do tell us that the job market is gradually improving here. The numbers are a little volatile week-to-week; it’s always difficult to seasonally adjust, particularly at this time of year because of holidays. But overall, the trend does seem to be one of an improving labor market.

Hill: These weekly numbers are only one in a whole sea of unemployment data. Which of these numbers deserve the most attention?

Kelly: I think the best way to look at the job market is to look at all of them, actually — you look at the weekly unemployment claims, you look at both the household survey and the establishment survey, which comes out on the first Friday of the month. And then you also look at private sector surveys, such as “Help Wanted” ads from Monster.com or from the Conference Board. And you look at layoff announcements from Challenger, Gray and Christmas. You look at the ISM — manufacturing and non-manufacturing employment indices. We look at a lot of numbers to get a very broad picture of employment.

Hill: And what do you see?

Kelly: Well, what we see is a very dynamic labor market. I mean, I think one of the things to think about in this unemployment claims number is that’s 400,000 people, roughly, per week filing initial claims for unemployment benefits. That’s 20 million people over the course of a year.

And in fact, more people quit a job than actually get laid off, so overall there are bout 47 million people leaving a job every year — but about 48 million people being hired. These are huge numbers; almost a million people get hired every week in America. So I think even though the overall unemployment rate is high, if you’re qualified and you’re aggressive in looking for a job, I think you can still find one in this economy.

Hill: David Kelly is chief market strategist with JP Morgan Funds. Thanks so much.

Kelly: You’re very welcome.

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