Last week the number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance decreased by 22,000 to 391,000. The drop greatly exceeded expectations, as many economists had predicted the claims would total at least 405,000. These numbers push the national average down to the lowest levels since July of 2008. Still not exactly great news, but better than the alternative.
Companies may begin to ratchet up hiring after reducing firings, which will bring unemployment down further. That would help allay concerns from Federal Reserve policy makers who expressed “disappointment in both the pace and the unevenness of the improvements in labor markets” in the minutes of their Jan. 25-26 meeting released last week.
“The labor market has been on the upswing,” Millan Mulraine, a senior U.S. strategist at TD Securities Inc. in New York, said before the report. “As the pace of layoffs continues to decline, it is an indication that not only are businesses not firing as fast they used to, but they may in fact begin hiring.”
Jobless claims estimates in the Bloomberg News survey of 51 economists ranged from 375,000 to 420,000. The Labor Department initially reported the prior week’s figures at 410,000.
There were no special factors affecting the figures, a Labor Department official said today.
The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, fell to 402,000 from 418,500 last week.
The number of people continuing to collect jobless benefits fell by 145,000 in the week ended Feb. 12 to 3.79 million.