Initial jobless claims fell sizably in the May 21 week, down 10,000 to a lower-than-expected 268,000. But the 4-week average, reflecting three prior weeks of increases, is still rising, up 2,750 to a 278,500 level that is more than 20,000 above the month-ago comparison. This comparison points to trouble for the May employment report.

The Labor Department is not citing any special factors in the latest report nor in recent reports, this despite the strike of 40,000 Verizon workers which remains an uncertain wildcard for employment readings.