Jobless aid applications tick up to 308,000

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose just 1,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 308,000, hovering near six-year lows. Companies are still cutting very few jobs, however the decline in layoffs has not been accompanied by a pickup in hiring.

The less volatile four-week average for applications fell to 305,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s the lowest since May 2007, seven months before the recession began.

Weekly applications could increase next week because of the partial government shutdown. Defense contractors and other companies that do business with the government may temporarily lay off workers. Federal workers who are temporarily laid off may also file for benefits, though their numbers are reported separately and published a week later than the other applications.

Still, the broader trend has been encouraging. Applications, which are a proxy for layoffs, have fallen steadily in the past three months as many companies have stopped laying off workers. That suggests more employers are confident enough in the economy to maintain their existing staffs.

Steady declines in applications are typically followed by more hiring. But that hasn’t happened. Instead, job gains have slowed in recent months.

“Companies were not laying off workers ahead of the shutdown but they probably weren’t hiring much, either,” Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, said.

Employers have added an average of just 155,000 jobs a month in the four months through August, according to government data. That’s down from an average of 205,000 for the first four months of the year.

On Wednesday, payroll provider ADP said that businesses added just 166,000 jobs in September, evidence that hiring remains sluggish. The ADP figures usually diverge from the Labor Department’s more comprehensive monthly employment report, which was scheduled to be released Friday. But the September employment report will now be delayed until the government shutdown ends.

About 4 million people received benefits the week ended Sept. 14, the latest data available. That’s about 80,000 more than the previous week. A year ago, more than 5 million people were on the unemployment benefit rolls.

The economy may not be growing quickly enough to encourage companies to ramp up hiring. Most analysts forecast that growth has slowed to an annual rate of 1.5 percent to 2 percent in the July-September quarter, down from a 2.5 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter.

Economists predict that growth is rebounding to an annual rate of 2.5 percent to 3 percent in the current October-December quarter. But those forecasts were made before this week’s impasse that shuttered the government. The shutdown could shave about 0.15 percentage points from the fourth quarter figure for each week it lasts.

More in Herald Business Journal

Health-care consumers need to take the lead, so get smart

David Russian, CEO of Western Washington Medical Group, writes our third essay about fixing health care.

Robots on Wall Street: Slow-footed regulators lose ground

Watchdogs have to figure out how to check computers running lightening-fast algorithms.

More business, more competition for Everett kidney dialysis center

Nonprofit Puget Sound Kidney Centers sees large for-profit competitors enter state market.

Molina Medical holds fall carnival for families in Everett

Molina Medical is hosting a free event for families in the Everett… Continue reading

Leadership Snohomish County celebrates 20 years of service

Leadership Snohomish County is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The organization was launched… Continue reading

Snohomish, Monroe manufacturers honored for innovation, excellence

Two Snohomish County companies have been honored with Manufacturing Excellence awards at… Continue reading

Remodeled home tours planned this weekend

This weekend, Edmonds-based Chermak Construction will participate in the 2017 Remodeled Homes… Continue reading

Barron Heating to celebrate anniversary at Marysville showroom

Barron Heating and Air Conditioning is celebrating its 45th anniversary from 10… Continue reading

US budget deficit hits $666B, an $80B spike for the year

The deficit issue has largely fallen in prominence in Washington in recent years.

Most Read