Jobless claims fall back to pre-storm range

WASHINGTON, Thu Dec 6, 2012 — The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell for a third straight week last week, dropping back to their pre-superstorm Sandy range.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000 in the week ended December 1, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Last week’s drop brought them back to their pre-storm’s 360,000-370,000 range, which economists said suggested there had been no marked weakening in the labor market. They had forecast claims falling to 380,0000.

“We could reasonably assume there is no underlying deterioration or acceleration in the labor market before the storm,” said Pierre Ellis, senior global economist at Decision Economics Inc. in New York.

“We should still have a relative poor payroll reading tomorrow, but we should have some confidence that payrolls would bounce back in December.”

The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, rose 2,250 to 408,000, reflecting the impact of the late October storm. That was the highest level since October last year.

Jobless claims fall, give clearer sign of health

WASHINGTON, Thu Oct 25, 2012 – The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, giving a clearer sign that the labor market is healing after wild fluctuations in claims data at the beginning of the month.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 369,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

The prior week’s figure was revised slightly higher to show 4,000 more applications than previously reported.

A Labor Department analyst said all states submitted data for the report and that there was nothing unusual in the raw data. The analyst said the data showed no signs of the factors that had appeared to generate sharp swings in the claims reading over the prior two weeks.

The four-week moving average for jobless claims, which smoothes out such volatility, rose 1,500 to a 368,000. Economists generally think a reading below 400,000 points to an increase in employment, with hiring likely to outpace layoffs.

The U.S. economy remains hobbled by a persistently high jobless rate. Incomes have stagnated and many families are awash in debts taken on during a housing bubble in the last decade.

Recently, however, the economy has shown a few positive signals, with the unemployment rate falling to 7.8 percent and retail sales picking up. Consumer spirits have also brightened.

Those signs of improvement appear to have done little to bolster President Barack Obama’s bid for a second term, and there is only one more reading on U.S. unemployment before voters go to the polls on Nov. 6.

Earlier this month, claims swung sharply lower and then higher, which a Labor Department analyst said was likely due to a change in the seasonal pattern that usually manifests at the beginning of the quarter. That distortion in the seasonal data appears to a have passed, the analyst said on Thursday.

Jobless claims hint labor market improving gradually

WASHINGTON, Thu Oct 18, 2012 – The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits spiked last week, reversing a sharp decline in the prior week but still pointing to a labor market that is slowly healing.

Other data on Thursday showed a modest rebound in factory activity in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 46,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 388,000, the Labor Department said.

Despite the spike, a four-week moving average that smoothes out weekly volatility was down from a month earlier, suggesting the lackluster job market recovery remains on track.

“Improvement in the labor market will continue to be fitful and slow,” said Joseph Trevisani, a market strategist at Worldwide Markets in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.

The economy has recently shown signs of modest strength, with the unemployment rate falling to 7.8 percent in September and retail sales pointing to a pick-up in consumer spending.

A gauge of future economy activity rebounded in September to post its largest gain in seven months, the Conference Board said in a separate report.

Jobless claims fall to lowest level in a month

WASHINGTON, Thu Sep 6, 2012 – The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell last week to its lowest level in a month, an upbeat signal for a labor market that has struggled to create enough jobs.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 365,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

It was the first drop in new claims since the week that ended August 4 and the lowest level since then as well.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dipping to 370,000 last week. The prior week’s figure was revised up to show 3,000 more applications than previously reported.

However, the four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, edged up to 371,250.

A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the data and no sign Hurricane Isaac affected the level of claims. The storm hit the U.S. Gulf Coast last week, disrupting business at the region’s ports, airports and oil refineries.

The report has no direct bearing on Friday’s monthly employment report for August, which is expected to show nonfarm payrolls rose by a modest 125,000 last month, while the unemployment rate is seen staying the same at 8.3 percent.

Jobless claims unchanged last week

WASHINGTON, Thu Aug 30, 2012 – The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits was unchanged last week, pointing to a labor market that was treading water.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits were a seasonally adjusted 374,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week’s figure was revised up to show 2,000 more applications than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dipping to 370,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, rose 1,500 to 370,250.

Jobless claims have risen by 10,000 in August, suggesting some moderation in the pace of job growth this month after payrolls increased 163,000 in July from 64,000 in June.

The state of the labor market, particularly the unemployment rate, could determine whether the Federal Reserve will offer additional monetary stimulus to the economy at its September 12-13 policy meeting.

The unemployment rate, which ticked up to 8.3 percent in July, has been stuck above 8 percent for more than three years, the first time this has happened since the Great Depression.

Although housing and retail sales data suggest that economic activity picked up early in the third quarter, business spending is weakening and inflation is slowing.

The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 5,000 to 3.32 million in the week ended August 18. The so-called continuing claims data fell during the week of the August household survey from which the unemployment rate is derived.

Jobless claims rise, labor market healing very slowly

WASHINGTON, Thu Aug 23, 2012 –The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week, suggesting the labor market is healing too slowly to make much of a dent in the unemployment rate.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That was the highest level in five weeks.

The data keeps pressure on President Barack Obama ahead of his November re-election bid. His Republican challenger is trying to focus voters’ attention on a lofty unemployment rate that has dogged Obama’s presidency.

Many economists think the Federal Reserve could unveil a new bond buying program to prop up economic growth as soon as its next meeting Sept 12-13, although an improvement in hiring this month could make that less likely.

The report on jobless claims did have a silver lining, however.

The data covers the same week looked at by the government for its monthly measure of employment, and showed a slight drop in layoffs from the survey week last month, which is a mildly positive signal for hiring in August.

The four-week moving average for new claims, a measure of labor market trends, was 368,000 last week. That was a slight increase from the prior week, but still 2.1 percent lower than in the second week of July.

Jobless claims fall first time since April, labor market still on mend

WASHINGTON, Thu Jun 7, 2012 – The number of Americans lining up for new jobless benefits fell last week for the first time since April, a reminder that the wounded labor market is still slowly healing.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 377,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That was spot on the median forecast in a Reuters poll.

The government revised the prior week’s figure up to 389,000 from the previously reported 383,000.

Prior to last week, claims had risen in four consecutive weeks, adding to concerns over several months of lackluster hiring data. While the country emerged from a deep recession three years ago, the jobless rate last month was 8.2 percent, well above its long-term historical average.

Still, most of the recent increases in new jobless claims were marginal and the overall level of claims has held at levels consistent with a modest recovery in the labor market.

The last time claims fell was in the week that ended April 28. The four-week moving average for new claims, a measure of labor market trends, increased 1,750 last week to 377,750.

The claims report comes ahead of congressional testimony scheduled for later in the day by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, where he could give clues about the likelihood of further policy easing.

On Wednesday, Janet Yellen, Bernanke’s deputy and the vice chair of the Fed, laid out the case for the central bank to provide more support to a fragile economy as financial turmoil in Europe mounts.

Jobless claims little changed last week; labor market expanding at a moderate pace

WASHINGTON, Thu May 24, 2012 – New claims for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week, government data on Thursday showed, suggesting the labor market continues to expand at a moderate pace.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000, the Labor Department said. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 372,000 from the previously reported 370,000.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims unchanged last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, dropped 5,500 to 370,000.

Claims have barely budged in the past four weeks indicating a marginal improvement in the pace of job creation after April’s disappointing 115,000 gain in nonfarm payrolls.

A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the state-level claims data and no states had been estimated.

The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 29,000 to 3.26 million in the week ended May 12.

The so-called continuing claims data covered the week for the household survey from which the unemployment rate is derived. The jobless rate dropped to 8.1 percent in April from 8.2 percent the prior month, but mostly as people gave up the hunt for work.

While more states are losing eligibility for extended benefits for the long-term unemployed, that is not yet being fully captured in the claims data as the figures are reported with a time lag.

Economists expect that as more people fall off the unemployment benefit rolls, that will artificially push down the jobless rate. Out-of-work people not receiving benefits are not obliged to be actively looking for work, a key criteria to be counted as unemployed.

The number of people on extended benefits dipped 4,800 to 299,955 in the week ended May 5, the latest week for which data is available. Only 15 states and the District of Columbia were offering extended benefits during that period.

Jobless claims for last week hold steady at 370,000

WASHINGTON, Thu May 17, 2012 – New claims for unemployment benefits were unchanged last week, according to government data on Thursday that will do little to ease concerns about a recent slowdown in jobs growth.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits held steady at a seasonally adjusted 370,000, the Labor Department said.

The prior week’s figure was revised up to 370,000 from the previously reported 367,000.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 365,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, fell 4,750 to 375,000.

The data comes on the heels of three straight months of slowing employment gains. Companies added 115,000 new jobs to their payrolls in April, the fewest in six months.

Thursday’s report on claims covered the week for May’s payrolls survey. The four-week average of new applications fell marginally between the April and May survey periods, suggesting not much change in labor market conditions.

Still, many economists think the April report gave an overly dim view of the economy, and pin the pull-back in job creation as payback for a mild winter that boosted gains in prior months.

The U.S. Federal Reserve appears disinclined to ramp up its support for the economy anytime soon unless the recovery stumbles. Minutes from the Fed’s April meeting released on Wednesday supported that view.

A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the state-level claims data and no states had been estimated.

April hiring slows, unemployment rate falls to 8.1 percent

WASHINGTON, Fri May 4, 2012 – Employers decreased hiring for the second straight month in April but the unemployment rate still fell to 8.1 percent, giving mixed messages about the economy’s strength ahead of President Barack Obama’s November re-election bid.

Employers added 115,000 workers to their payrolls last month, the Labor Department said on Friday.

The reading keeps fears alive that the U.S. economy is losing momentum and dampens hopes that a stretch of strong winter hiring signaled a turning point for the recovery.

The unemployment rate ticked a tenth of a point lower to a three-year low, as people left the work force. The jobless rate is derived from a separate survey of households, which showed a drop in the number of jobs in April.

Still, the government revised upward its initial estimates for payroll growth in February and March by a combined 53,000. That left the six-month average of job growth at 197,000, nearly exactly where it would have been had April job growth come in as expected at 170,000.

“We’re still growing just gradually,” said Nigel Gault, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.

“Hiring is coming back into line with what you would expect with sluggish growth.”

The report, which regularly sets the tone for financial markets around the world, could rattle nerves at the White House. Weak U.S. growth and high unemployment create a formidable headwind for Obama, who entered office during the darkest days of the 2007-09 recession.

His Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, repeatedly has accused Obama of doing too little to foster job growth.

The unemployment rate, which soared to as high as 10 percent during Obama’s first year in the office, held near 9 percent for most of last year before falling sharply over the winter.

Still, it remains about 2 percentage points higher than its average over the last 50 years, and the U.S. Federal Reserve thinks it probably will not post a full recovery for at least another several years.

Nevertheless, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said last month the central bank is providing enough support for the economy.