U.S. Initial Jobless Claims Fell 22,000 to 391,000 Last Week
The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance fell more than forecast last week, indicating an improving labor market.
Applications for jobless benefits decreased by 22,000 to 391,000 in the week ended Feb. 19, Labor Department figures showed today. Economists forecast claims would drop to 405,000, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. Claims have fallen in three of the past four weeks, pushing down the monthly average to the lowest level since July 2008.
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.
Economists forecast the number would decline to 3.88 million. Figures for continuing claims do not include the number of workers receiving extended benefits under federal programs.
Those who’ve used up their benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments decreased by 55,330 to 4.45 million in the week ended Feb. 5.
The unemployment among those eligible for benefits, which tends to track the jobless rate, fell to 3.0 percent. That is the lowest since November 2008, according to a Labor Department official.
Thirty-five states and territories reported a decrease in claims, while 18 had an increase.
Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth -- measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report -- accelerates.
Federal Reserve policy makers will likely keep interest rates near zero and maintain plans to buy $600 billion in Treasury securities to boost the pace of recovery until they see signs of sustained job creation.
Employers hired 183,000 workers in February as the unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent, according to the median estimate of economists in a Bloomberg News survey ahead of next week’s employment report. The Labor Department will release the figures March 4.
Last month, payrolls increased a fewer-than-forecast 36,000 while the jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 9 percent, the lowest since April 2009, the Labor Department reported Feb. 4. Unemployment dropped to 9.4 percent in December from 9.8 percent the previous month.
While touring an Intel Corp. semiconductor manufacturing facility in Hillsboro, Oregon, last week, President Barack Obama said the U.S. must foster a business climate that encourages job creation and assures companies can draw on an educated workforce.
“In a world that is more competitive than ever before, it’s our job to make sure that America is the best place on earth to do business,” Obama said Feb. 18 at the factory.
Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, announced plans during the president’s visit to build a $5 billion microprocessor plant in Arizona and hire 4,000 employees in the U.S. this year.
The workers will focus on product development, research and design, Paul Otellini, chief executive officer of Intel, said as he showed Obama around the plant, west of Portland. The new factory will be built at the company’s existing site in Chandler, Arizona.
Santa Clara, California-based Intel is expanding its factory network to meet increasing demand for chips. The company said last month that it would spend $8.7 billion to $9.3 billion on plants and equipment this year, compared with $5.2 billion in 2010. Revenue may rise 14 percent to $49.5 billion this year, according to the average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
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