Every week the government reports the number of people that claim unemployment benefits. This is a leading economic indicator and is watch closely. This week the number rose to 234,000 for the week ending on May 19th. That was substantially higher than expected at 219,000. Is this a problem? Does it foreshadow danger for the economy?
To understand what the numbers suggest every week a broader view is essential. For instance, the raw data shows a jump in claims in larger states last week, and it normally does in late spring when the school year ends and bus drivers and cafeteria workers no longer have work. Also the period between Easter and Memorial Day can lead to significant swings due to the shift in timing of the holidays. Sharp rises after these periods usually are followed by declines.
The bigger picture is suggesting a strong job market and that is reflected in the 3.9% unemployment rate. Look for trends in the weekly unemployment claims report not just the week to week numbers.