News

U.S. jobless claims fall; four-week average hits 8-year low

U.S. jobless claims fall; four-week average hits 8-year low

JOBS: Initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased by 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 289,000 for the week ended Aug. 2. Photo: Reuters

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, pointing to a further strengthening of labor market conditions.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased by 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 289,000 for the week ended Aug. 2, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

The prior week’s claims were revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 305,000 for the week ended Aug. 2. Volatility related to the summer automobile plant shutdowns for retooling pushed claims to a 14-year low in July.

Most of that volatility has worked its way through the data. The four-week average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 4,000 to 293,500, the lowest level since February 2006.

A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing the state level data.

“The underlying trend seems to be improvement in payrolls. The slower pace of claims would be consistent with that,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities in Stamford, Connecticut.

U.S. stock index futures held gains, while prices of U.S. Treasuries turned flat, paring earlier gains, after the claims data. The U.S. dollar was trading higher against the euro.

Claims are now at levels where the scope for further declines is limited as the labor market normalizes. As such, hiring will need to pick up significantly for job growth to accelerate.

The slow pace of layoffs as well as steady hiring are helping to strengthen labor market conditions, fanning speculation of an early interest rate increase from the Federal Reserve.

But with the ranks of the long-term unemployed, discouraged job seekers and part-time workers still large, the U.S. central bank has given little indication it is in a hurry to lift its benchmark interest rate, which it has kept near zero since December 2008.

Fed officials last month acknowledged the improvement in labor market conditions, but said “significant underutilization of labor resources” remained.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 209,000 in July, marking the sixth straight month that employment expanded by more than 200,000, a stretch last seen in 1997. The unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.2 percent as more people entered the labor force in search of work.

Thursday’s jobless claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid dropped by 24,000 to 2.52 million in the week ended July 26.

The unemployment rate for people receiving jobless benefits was 1.9 percent for the fourth week in a row.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Additional reporting by Richard Leong in New York; Editing by Paul Simao)

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

REVIEW: ‘Birdman’ could be the best film of 2014

In this image released by Fox Searchlight Pictures, Michael Keaton portrays Riggan in a scene from "Birdman."

You’ve heard the buzz for Michael Keaton's "Birdman." It’s loud and it's merited.

in Sports, Viral Videos

Nike hype video welcomes LeBron back to Cleveland

14-overlay4

The video huddles the whole city as "The King" returns home.

in Entertainment

PHOTOS: 31 adorable pets in Halloween costumes

Bailey Jarrett and her dog Teddy visit a Dallas-area PetSmart store on Oct. 25, 2014, for the company's annual in-store Halloween event. The event took place at all PetSmart locations throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

This Halloween is going to the dogs... and cats, ferrets, and bunnies.

in Music

Queen, Fleetwood Mac won’t be playing Glastonbury

fleetwoodmac

The two veteran rock acts were strongly rumored to have been booked as the big names for the 2015 festival.

in Music

Rihanna donates $135K to AIDS charity

rihanna

The singer dished out $135,000 at an auction to benefit AIDS research at the star-studded amfAR Inspiration gala.