Fewer Americans file for unemployment benefits

  • Bloomberg
  • Thursday, April 7, 2016 3:57pm
  • Business

Fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, illustrating a healthy labor market that’s allowing workers to feel more secure in their job.

Jobless claims dropped by 9,000 to 267,000 in the week ended April 2, a report from the Labor Department showed on Thursday. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 270,000.

Weekly applications have been below 300,000 for longer than a year as steady demand encourages employers to retain those who are qualified and experienced. Dismissals near the lowest level since 1973 have been accompanied by a steady drumbeat of hiring, propping up consumer spending and the economy.

“Layoffs are still running at low levels,” Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said before the report. “The job market continues to chug along.”

While jobless claims for Louisiana were estimated last week, there was nothing unusual in the figures, the Labor Department said.

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 261,000 to 290,000. Applications in the prior week were unrevised at 276,000.

The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure than the weekly claims numbers, increased to 266,750 last week from 263,250.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 19,000 to 2.19 million in the week ended March 26, more than the Bloomberg survey median forecast. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.6 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

For 57 consecutive weeks, initial claims have been below the 300,000 level that economists say is typically consistent with an improving job market. That’s the longest stretch since 1973.

Employers added 215,000 workers to payrolls in March after a 245,000 February advance, while the jobless rate edged up to 5 percent as more people entered the labor force, the Labor Department said on April 1. Average hourly earnings increased 0.3 percent from a month earlier.

Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings, and a sustained low level of applications has typically coincided with faster job gains. Layoffs may also reflect company- or industry-specific causes, such as cost-cutting or business restructuring, rather than underlying labor market trends.

At the same time, last year’s plunge in commodities prices, weaker global demand and a strong dollar have prompted producers to reduce headcount.

In March, manufacturing employment slumped by the most since December 2009, the payrolls report showed.

U.S. Steel Corp., the domestic producer of the metal working to restructure itself amid a global oversupply, said this week it will cut 25 percent of its non-union workforce.

“This is part of the ongoing adjustment to staff levels and operations due to challenging market conditions, including fluctuating oil prices, reduced rig counts, depressed steel prices and unfairly traded imports,” Sarah Cassella, a spokeswoman for U.S. Steel, said in an email Wednesday.

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