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2.7%  Q1 GDP    4.57%  avg. 30-year mortgage     9.5%  Unemployment

New jobless claims lowest since January -- what does that mean for tomorrow's monthly unemployment number?

New jobless claims filed last week fell to their lowest number since January in data released this morning. That's the good news.

The bad news is: 512,000 new people still filed for jobless claims.

That number is down from the 700,000 and 800,000 weekly numbers we were seeing at the depths of this recession, but it still has to get down into the 400,000s before jobs can actually start being created. Some 7.2 million jobs have been lost since this recession began in December 2007.

What does this number signal for tomorrow's monthly jobs number? That's the big question.

The official U.S. unemployment number stands at 9.8 percent and rising. Most economists and the White House expect the number will crest above 10 percent. Economists predict tomorrow's number will tick up to 9.9 percent.

When it hits 10 percent, you should expect it to hang there for several months before starting to come down again, because that's been the pattern over the past several recessions. Also, this recession is unlike any we've seen in 70 years. Congress is working on legislation that would extend unemployment benefits by 14 to 20 weeks.

However, if you're looking for good news, there was one bit of little data stuck into a piece of bigger data that came out earlier this week that may carry a positive harbinger about tomorrow's big jobless number.

On Monday, the Institute for Supply Management released its most recent report on U.S. manufacturing, which showed a slight uptick. Buried in that report is a jobs number that moved upward across a crucial threshold. In the past, when that threshold has been crossed, the U.S. unemployment rate began to crest.

If this holds true tomorrow, the unemployment number will hold steady at 9.8 percent. Or at least it won't shoot up to 10 percent just yet. But just remember: This recession is unlike any other. Inasmuch as this is a recovery -- and I'm still not sure it is -- it has a jobless recovery.

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  November 5, 2009; 9:53 AM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: jobless claims, unemployment  
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Next: Cracking the 10% unemployment barrier

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