Weekly U.S. jobless aid applications rise to 372K

WASHINGTON — More Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, though the winter holidays likely distorted the data for the second straight week.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications rose by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000 in the week ended Dec. 29. The previous week’s total was revised higher.

Many state unemployment offices were closed this week for the New Year’s holiday and did not submit complete data for last week. As a result, the department relied on estimates for nine states. Two weeks ago, the department estimated 19 states because of Christmas closings.

In a typical week, the government estimates only one or two states.

The broader trend has been favorable. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, was little changed at 360,000. That’s only slightly above the previous week’s 359,750, which was the lowest in more than four years.

Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have mostly fluctuated this year between 360,000 and 390,000. At the same time, employers have added an average of 151,000 jobs a month in the first 11 months of 2012.

The government will release the December’s jobs report Friday. Economists forecast it will show employers added about 150,000 jobs last month, barely enough to lower the unemployment rate.

A separate report Thursday offered some hope that the job figures could be a little higher. Payroll provider ADP reported that businesses added 215,000 jobs last month, much higher than November’s total of 148,000.

Hiring surged behind a jump in construction jobs that were added in part to help rebuild from Superstorm Sandy.

ADP’s report covers hiring in the private sector and does not include government jobs. It has frequently diverged from the government’s report. Still, some economists were encouraged by the survey and also by the latest unemployment applications figures.

A few even raised their forecasts for Friday’s report. Jonathan Basile, an economist at Credit Suisse, said he now expects employers added 185,000 jobs last month, up from 165,000.

“The latest round of labor market data are, on balance, positive,” Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, said.

Unemployment remains high and companies are reluctant to ramp up hiring. The unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent in November from 7.9 percent in October mostly because many of the unemployed stopped looking for jobs. The government counts people as unemployed only if they are actively searching for work.

The number of people receiving benefits fell to 5.4 million in the week ended Dec. 15, the latest data available. That’s down about 70,000 from the previous week. The figure includes about 2.1 million people receiving emergency benefits paid for by the federal government. The White House and Congress agreed earlier this week to extend that program for another year.

Companies may hire more in the coming months now that President Barack Obama and Congress have reached agreement to avoid most of the tax increases and spending in the fiscal cliff. But more battles over taxes and spending are likely in the coming weeks, which could keep companies cautious about adding jobs.

There are signs the economy is improving. The once-battered housing market is recovering, which should lead to more construction jobs in the coming months. Companies ordered more long-lasting manufactured goods in November, a sign they are investing more in equipment and software. And Americans spent more in November. Consumer spending drives nearly 70 percent of economic growth.

More in Herald Business Journal

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.”

Strange and wonderful creatures come through door of Bothell clinic

At the Center for Bird and Exotic Animal Medicine, vets treat snakes, hedgehogs and even kangaroos.

Planemaker joins forces with auto-industry supplier Adient

The new venture poses a threat to Zodiac Aerospace and Rockwell Collins

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.

House passes bill aimed at lowering gender wage gap

The bill would hinder employers from retaliating against female workers who ask about others’ pay.

Glitches slow Boeing, SpaceX plans for human spaceflight

Boeing has an issue with its abort system that may cause the spacecraft to “tumble.”

Boeing opens new $17 million training center in Auburn

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

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.

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.

Most Read