Initial jobless claims reflect the number of people filing for unemployment insurance over the last week. A higher number should be read negatively as higher unemployment reduces the productivity of the economy.
The level of initial jobless claims is an excellent indicator of the health of the jobs market, and the economy as a whole. Low levels of claims can signal that companies might have a more difficult time hiring workers, and that workers currently employed will need overtime pay or higher compensation as an enticement. Wage inflation can increase interest rates and decrease the price of bonds and stocks in the investment market, which is bad news to investors and is watched carefully by the Federal Reserve.
Additional forecasts and historical data can be found through these sources: