WASHINGTON – Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week as a backlog in California’s reporting cleared.
Jobless claims decreased by 10,000 to 340,000 in the week ended Oct. 26 from 350,000 the prior period, the Labor Department reported Thursday in Washington. The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a decrease to 338,000.
Following swings caused by a change in computer systems in California, claims are settling into a higher range, indicating the 16-day partial federal shutdown this month prompted some employers to dismiss staff. Bigger gains in payrolls are needed to boost wages and revive consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy.
“Hiring has lagged in this recovery,” Jonathan Basile director of U.S. economics at Credit Suisse Holdings in New York, said before the report. “What hiring we’ve had hasn’t been fast enough to generate higher wage pressures.”
The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure, rose to 356,250 last week from 348,250.
At the end of September, before the government shutdown and the issues in California, the four-week average stood at 305,000, a sign claims have moved up as a result of the fiscal gridlock in Washington.
Federal workers filed about 14,400 claims for jobless benefits two weeks ago, down from about 44,100 the prior period. Those were tallied in a separate category and didn’t influence Thursday’s headline reading.
Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 320,000 to 370,000. The prior week’s claims were unrevised.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 31,000 to 2.88 million in the week ended Oct. 19.