WASHINGTON – The number of Americans filling for unemployment insurance payments last week hovered near the lowest level in almost seven years, showing the job market is making progress.
Jobless claims increased by 2,000 to 304,000 in the week ended April 12 from a revised 302,000 the prior period that was the lowest since September 2007, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an increase to 315,000. The total number of people receiving benefits fell to the lowest since the last recession began.
Dismissals are on the decline as companies, already lean from recession-era job cutting, gear up for rising sales as the economy strengthens. Even with the improvement, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday that policy makers must be mindful of how short the U.S. still remains of achieving its goals of full employment and price stability.
“Not only have you had a slowdown in layoffs, but also the total number of people on state benefit rolls has fallen,” said Brian Jones, senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, who forecast for claims of 305,000. “The labor market is getting better.”
Stock-index futures held earlier gains after the report. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in June climbed 0.1 percent to 1,855.4 at 8:42 a.m. in New York.
There was nothing unusual in last week’s data and no states were estimated, a Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released to the press.
Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 295,000 to 328,000. The prior week’s claims were revised up from an initial reading of 300,000.
The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, dropped to 312,000, the lowest since October 2007, from 316,750 the week before.