Jobless Claims in U.S. Fell Last Week as Labor Market Heals

Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign of steady progress in the labor market.

Jobless claims fell 6,000 to 312,000 in the week ended June 14, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 50 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 313,000. The total number of people collecting benefits decreased to the lowest level in almost seven years.

Firings have been skirting pre-recession lows and companies are hiring as they look for a sustained pickup in household purchases. Payroll growth that is on pace for its best year since 1999 will need to spur bigger gains in wages for spending to accelerate and contribute more to the economic expansion.

“The trend in initial claims is good,” Ryan Sweet, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said before the report. “The job market continues to heal.”

Stock-index futures were little changed after the report. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in September rose less than 0.1 percent to 1,950.3 at 8:32 a.m. in New York. The S&P 500 closed at a record yesterday as Federal Reserve policy makers said interest rates will remain low.

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 295,000 to 321,000. The Labor Department revised the prior week’s reading to 318,000 from an initially reported 317,000.

Nothing Unusual

No states estimated data and there was nothing unusual in the report, a Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released to the press.

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, declined to 311,750 from 315,500 the week before.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 54,000 to 2.56 million in the week ended June 7, the fewest since October 2007. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits declined to 1.9 percent during that period from 2 percent the prior week, today’s report showed.

Fewer firings typically signal an acceleration in job growth. Employers added 217,000 workers to payrolls in May, lifting the average monthly advance so far this year to 213,600.

Boosting Payrolls

Some retailers are adding stores and hiring amid strong sales. Houston-based Men’s Wearhouse Inc., opened nine stores in the first three months of the year and is adding workers at its New Bedford, Massachusetts, factory to keep up with demand for custom suits.

“We’ve hired additional personnel in our factory to increase the production to keep up with our anticipated needs,” President and Chief Executive Officer Doug Ewert said on a June 6 earnings call. “Based on the higher-than-expected demand, it’s going to take longer than we anticipated to produce sufficient inventory to get all of our stores in business. While unanticipated, this is a nice problem to have.”

Federal Reserve policymakers yesterday trimmed monthly bond purchases by $10 billion for a fifth straight meeting, to $35 billion, keeping them on pace to end the program late this year. The policy-making Federal Open Market Committee repeated it expects the benchmark interest rate to stay low for a “considerable time” after the bond-buying ends.

While the labor market generally shows improvement, “a broader assessment of indicators suggests that underutilization in the labor market remains significant,” Fed Chair Janet Yellen said after the central bank’s two-day meeting.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lorraine Woellert in Washington at lwoellert@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Carlos Torres at ctorres2@bloomberg.net

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