The Labor Department reported an increase of 31,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance last week. The weekly data are always erratic, but there has been a clear upward movement since December numbers. The four-week average was 467,500, which is considerably higher than a level consistent with job growth (@400,000).
Also, last week's numbers were almost certainly depressed by bad weather on the East Coast. Many people who would have otherwise filed claims were unable to get to unemployment offices as a result of snow storms. Therefore, we may expect a jump in the current week. The number of claims deserved far more attention than it received.