According to data released today by the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell 9,000 for the week ending June 22, 2013. The seasonally adjusted initial benefits claims was 346,000. Numbers of initial claims for the previous week was 355,000.
Unemployment initial claims are near a five-year low, which was actually hit last month. The question of why that is happening remains largely unanswered. There is, of course, the explanation that businesses are hiring again. But keep in mind that these are number for initial claims. They do not reflect how many people are on and have been on unemployment for a while. Another way to say this is, "How many people got laid off in that week?" The rate of job loss has slowed. Which is to say, things aren't getting bad as fast as they once were. But it says nothing about whether things are actually getting better.
None of these figures says anything about whether people who have been receiving unemployment benefits have actually found work. None of these figures says anything about people who were without work for long periods, got a job, then lost it, now finding themselves unable to apply for unemployment again because they haven't "worked enough" in the previous year before their new claim.
None of these figures says anything about people who were self-employed, lost their business income, and can not file for unemployment because they never paid in to the insurance plan on themselves. None of these figures says anything about people who were laid off from organizations who are exempt from paying in to unemployment, such as churches.
In fact, this bit of data hides a number that actually may be telling, within the same report:
For the week ending June 8, the latest data released by the Department of Labor, 23,000 more people were drawing unemployment than in the previous week.
So the rate of new applicants slowed. But the ranks of unemployed are still growing. The neighborhood is flooded. The rain slowed down last week. But it's still raining.