U.S. jobless aid hits a 7 year low

WASHINGTON — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in seven years last week, a sign the job market is steadily improving.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped 24,000 to 297,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s the fewest since May 12, 2007. The four week average, a less volatile measure, dipped 2,000 to 323,250.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the decline is evidence that employers are cutting fewer jobs. Weekly applications topped 650,000 in March 2009, during the Great Recession.

Fewer people are also receiving benefits each week. The number of recipients fell to 2.67 million, the fewest since Dec. 1, 2007, when the recession began.

As applications have declined, hiring has picked up. Employers added the most jobs in 2 1/2 years in April. Job gains have averaged 214,000 in the first four months of this year, up from an average of 194,000 in 2013.

The unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent last month, from 6.7 percent. But the drop occurred because fewer people looked for work. The government doesn’t count people as unemployed unless they are actively searching.

The improved hiring may help boost economic growth for the rest of the year.

The economy grew just 0.1 percent at an annual rate in the first three months of this year, largely because cold weather kept consumers away from shopping malls and discouraged home and car sales. Data released since then has suggested that the economy actually contracted in the first quarter by as much as 0.8 percent, analysts say. The government will release updated figures for the first quarter at the end of the month.

Still, analysts expect the economy will rebound in the current April-June quarter and grow at a healthy pace of about 3.5 percent. Consumer and business spending and homebuilding are rebounding from the cold weather.

More in Herald Business Journal

Best foot forward: Ferndale company to make custom shoes easy

Long specializing in insoles, Superfeet is putting 3-D machines in stores to make customized shoes.

Does a hypersonic US reconnaissance plane already exist?

A Skunk Works executive speaks of the top secret aircraft as if it is already in operation.

Alaska Airlines has selected destinations for new service from Paine Field. (Alaska Airlines)
Alaska Airlines will fly from Everett to 8 West Coast cities

Two destinations that didn’t make the list were Spokane and Hawaii.

Port of Everett CEO Les Reardanz has been called up and will be spending much of the year away from his office. He is going to Afghanistan. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Port of Everett CEO reporting for duty — in Afghanistan

Les Reardanz has been called to active duty with the Navy for an eight-month deployment.

Boeing opens new $17 million training center in Auburn

Workers and dignitaries marked the grand opening of the facility Monday.

Trump’s company fights efforts to shed the president’s name

“Our homes are worth more without the Trump name.”

Airbus floats shutdown of A380 superjumbo

The aircraft is so big that some airports had to expand runways to accommodate the 550-seat plane.

Amanda Strong (left) tries on an Angel of the Winds Arena hat as she and Courtney Brown hand out gift bags after the renaming ceremony Dec. 13 in Everett. The new name replaces the Xfinity name. (Andy Bronson / Her file)
Angel of the Winds to break ground on $60M casino expansion

“We think we’re on the cusp of becoming a major resort.”

Why 7-Eleven, inventor of the Slurpee, is going organic

As sales of gas, cigarettes and soda plummet, stores to offer “better-for-you” products.

Most Read