Jobless benefits claims fall to lowest since 2008

WASHINGTON , Thu Apr 5, 2012 – The number of Americans lining up for new jobless benefits fell to the lowest level in nearly four years last week, according to a government report that showed ongoing healing in the labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 357,000, the lowest since April 2008, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

“The claims data are consistent with modest job growth in March,” said Yelena Shulyatyeva, and economist at BNP Paribas in New York.

Futures for stocks pared losses following the data’s publication while prices on U.S. government debt trimmed gains. The euro extended losses against the dollar.

Thursday’s weekly claims report has no direct relationship to the March employment report due on Friday because the data for the monthly report was gathered earlier in the month.

But the claims data could bolster the case that the healing labor market is lowering the need for the Federal Reserve to do more to boost growth.

Economists polled by Reuters expect the employment report will show the U.S. economy added 203,000 jobs last month, notching up a fourth straight month of solid job.

That would mark the longest stretch of monthly employment gains topping 200,000 since 1999.

The four-week moving average for new claims, a measure of labor market trends, declined 4,250 to 361,750.

Jobless claims hold steady at four-year low

WASHINGTON – The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits last week held at the lowest level since the early days of the 2007-2009 recession, signaling that the battered labor market is healing.

Workers filed 351,000 initial claims for state unemployment benefits, the same as in the prior week, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

The data suggests that a long cycle of heavy layoffs has run it course, laying the ground for more hiring.

“The economy is on the mend from a job creation perspective,” said Phil Orlando, a market strategist at Federated Investors in New York.

The last two weekly readings for claims were the lowest since March 2008, just three months after the deep recession began. Initial filings peaked above 650,000 in March 2009.

Signs of improvement in the job market have been growing.

The unemployment rate, which stood at 9.1 percent in August, dropped to 8.3 percent in January, and additions to payrolls have exceeded 200,000 for two straight months.

The latest jobless claims data covered the week that corresponds with the sample period for the government’s February payroll report, and suggests another solid month for hiring.

“It’s hard not to be optimistic about this,” said Brian Levitt, and economist at OppenheimerFunds in New York.

The U.S. Federal Reserve has left benchmark interest rates near zero since December 2008 to coax companies to take on more workers, and the recent improvement in the labor market has dampened expectations of further monetary stimulus.

New unemployment benefits claims fall 15,000 last week

WASHINGTON ― New claims for unemployment benefits fell by 15,000 last week in the latest sign the labor market was improving and could help the country resist the effects of a likely euro zone recession.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped to a seasonally adjusted 372,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week’s claims data was revised up to 387,000 from the previously reported 381,000.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 375,000. A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the data, although the figures for three states, including California and Virginia, had been estimated.

Claims have now fallen in four of the last five weeks, and the four-week moving average ― a better measure of trends – fell 3,250 to 376,500, the lowest level since June 2008.

Economists at Goldman Sachs said in December that weekly claims below 435,000 pointed to net monthly gains in jobs.

An improving labor market has boosted the view the economy wrapped up 2011 on better footing, leaving it well positioned to deal with headwinds from Europe’s debt crisis and fiscal tightening at home.

Still, a moribund U.S. housing market and persistently high unemployment threaten the recovery.

In the week ending December 24, the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 22,000 to 3.595 million. Economists had forecast so-called continuing claims holding about steady at 3.58 million.

As of Dec 17, a total of 7.223 million people were claiming unemployment benefits under all programs, down 8,311 from the prior week.

Data on Wednesday showed U.S. manufacturing growing at its fastest pace in six months during December, capping a late-year upswing.

Fourth-quarter growth is seen topping a 3 percent annual pace, rising from the July-September period’s 1.8 percent rate.

New jobless claims rise, July trade gap narrows to $44.8 billion

WASHINGTON ― The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits rose unexpectedly last week, further evidence of a weak labor market just hours before President Barack Obama unveils a plan on job creation in a major address to Congress.

A separate report showed a considerably narrower trade deficit for July, a positive signal for growth in the third quarter after a sluggish first half of the year.

Applications for unemployment benefits rose to 414,000 in the week ending September 3 from an upwardly revised 412,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Wall Street analysts had been looking for a dip to 405,000.

“Jobless claims numbers have been stabilizing in recent weeks. We’re probably seeing an economy that’s just growing slowly,” said Gary Thayer, chief macro strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors in St. Louis.

U.S. stock index futures extended losses after the data, while Treasury debt prices held gains.

Excluding one week in early August, claims have held above 400,000 since early April. The Labor Department said there was no discernible effect from recent hurricanes and storms on the national figures this week.

The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out volatility, rose to 414,750 from 411,000 the prior week.

Continuing claims eased to 3.72 million from 3.75 million in the week ended Aug. 27, the latest available data. The number of total recipients on benefit rolls was 7.17 million in the Aug. 20 week.

U.S. employment growth ground to a halt in August, with zero net job creation raising fears of a new recession and putting pressure on the Federal Reserve to ease monetary policy further at its meeting later this month.

But in a respite from the negative news, the trade gap shrank to $44.8 billion in July, Commerce Department data showed, down sharply from June’s $53.1 billion deficit and much lower than forecasts around $51 billion.

The 13.1 percent decline was the biggest month-to-month percentage drop in the deficit since February 2009.