NEW YORK -- It's all about jobs. Too many Americans are out of work. The 8.1% unemployment rate is too high. The paycheck-deficient USA needs help from the nation's central bank.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said so last week. Not only did Bernanke launch a third round of Fed-driven stimulus to get the economy moving again, the nation's most powerful banker also said he would keep the stimulus spigot open until the sick job market recovers fully.
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Thursday marks the first jobs-related data point to be released by the government since Bernanke tied Fed assistance to creating more paychecks and reducing the number of pink slips. At 8:30 a.m. ET, Wall Street will be eagerly waiting to find out how many U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits for the first time in the week ended Sept. 15.
Economists are expecting 375,000 initial jobless claims to be filed, down from 382,000 in the prior week. The weak prior reading was blamed on disruptions related to Tropical Storm Isaac. The lower the claims number, the more bullish it is, because it suggests the labor market is firming up.
While the weekly read on jobless claims is not as big a market-mover as the monthly jobs report that totals up the number of jobs created, it will still be closely watched by investors.
"For the foreseeable future," notes Jim O'Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, "every Thursday's weekly job claims and each month's first Friday payrolls and unemployment data take on even more importance. Plain and simple."