First-Time Jobless Claims in U.S. Reach Lowest Level in Almost Four Years [View all]
By Bob Willis and Shobhana Chandra - Thu Jan 19 14:12:21 GMT 2012
Fewer Americans than forecast filed first-time applications for unemployment benefits last week, easing concern that post-holiday firings were on the rise.
Claims plunged by 50,000 to 352,000 in the week ended Jan. 14, the lowest level since April 2008, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 41 economists in a Bloomberg News survey projected 384,000. A Labor Department spokesman said the decrease reflected volatility seen during this time of year. The four-week average, which smoothes out fluctuations, decreased to 379,000 last week from 382,500.
Companies are slowing the pace of firings and beginning to step up the pace of hiring even as a slump in Europe spurred by a default crisis may limit U.S. growth. The improvement may be a sign that companies are looking to expand their workforces as sales climb.
“You’ve got a gradual improvement in the labor market,” said Brian Jones, a senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, whose forecast of 363,000 was the lowest. Because of “choppiness with the beginning of the calendar year, you have to look at the four-week moving average” which he said was “encouraging.”