Weekly jobless claims dropped to a five-year low last week, surprising analysts. During the week ending January 19, applications for unemployment insurance payments decreased by 5,000 to 330,000, the lowest number since the same week in 2008. But this change matches similar patterns in previous calendar years, due to the challenges of adjusting data during the holiday period and at the start of quarters. One expert indicated that the numbers would rise again at the end of the month, saying, "The swings are attributable to the calendar. We're going to pay for this."
A pickup in consumer spending last month may be helping employers look beyond the rancor in Washington over attempts to cut federal spending and trim the national debt. Nonetheless, an increase in the payroll tax at the start of the year has shaken household confidence, raising the risk that sales may cool.
“Away from the calendar swings, the numbers are getting better,” Jones said. “There’s an improvement in the labor market that is in fact going on."