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If the weekly unemployment benefits claims report was a vehicle and we were passengers, we'd all have whiplash by now as the number changed sharply once again, this time falling 35,000 to an initial figure of 353,000. It's the third week in a row that the number has changed by more than 25,000, first dropping to a four-year-low of 350,000 then jerking back up to a revised figure of 388,000, and now plummeting again. For a bit of explanation as to why, let's hear from MarketWatch's Jeffry Bartash: "Auto manufacturers used to schedule brief shutdowns of plants every July to retool for new models, but the size of temporary layoffs has varied widely since the industry was bailed out several years ago. That makes the claims report especially volatile in July and less useful in gauging labor-market trends." On the plus side, the four-week moving average, a more stable number than the weekly report, has fallenĀ 8,750 to 367,250, its lowest level since the end of March, and below the 375,000 that The Associated Press likes to point out "typically suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate."

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