California has seen the biggest unemployment claims drop in the U.S. That's the good news. Sort of. The bad news, according to the Labor Department, is that first-time unemployment claims rose nationally last week, to 388,000 from the previous week's 342,000 (the lowest since early 2008).
That was for last week. For the week ending October 6 (specific state data is laggy), California saw first-time claims fall by nearly 5,000 — exceeding number two Alabama by...about 4,700.
The general view of economists is that these numbers, while below the important 400,000 number, don't represent anything close to a healthy labor market. Rather, they show a market moving sideways, with limited layoffs and firings but without much hiring.
A word of warning: This is some pretty noisy data, currently being affected by changes in seasonal hiring patterns. The Labor Department generates a four-week moving average that's less volatile. For the most recent report, it show a pace of initial claims that was little changed, at around 365,000.
That said, California's economy still appears to be improving a rate that's better than the nation as a whole. This is because the U.S. economy has been digging out of a very deep hole. We have a lot of room for improvement.
UPDATE: And, for what it's worth, California's big drop in first-time claims — after leading the country for the week of September 29 in claims — suggests that last week's three-way dustup between the Labor Department, the California EDD, and Business Insider's Henry Blodget over the completeness of California's reporting was all a lot of misdirected sound and fury.