Decline in U.S. Jobless Claims Shows Resilient Job Market

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U.S. Jobless Claims Drop to 275,000, Import Prices Fall

Fewer Americans lined up last week to file for jobless benefits, highlighting the persistent strength of the labor market.

Claims for unemployment insurance fell by 6,000 to 275,000 in the week ended Sept. 5, from a revised 281,000 in the prior period, a report from the Labor Department showed Thursday. The figure matched the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

For the last six months first-time claims have been below the 300,000 level that economists associate with a healthy labor market as steady demand persuades employers to retain workers. What’s more, the unemployed have a greater chance of finding work after a report Wednesday showed a record number of job openings in July.

“We’re making progress,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “The job market is in good shape. Sub-300,000 initial claims is historically rare but the norm this year.”

Estimates of 45 economists in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 265,000 to 285,000 after an initially reported 282,000 a week earlier.

The Labor Department estimated last week’s jobless claims for Hawaii. Otherwise, there were no special factors in the report, an agency spokesman said as the figures were released.

Other Labor Department figures Thursday showed a stronger U.S. dollar is holding down a measure of inflation. Import prices decreased 1.8 percent in August from a month earlier, the biggest drop since January. Compared with August 2014, the 11.4 percent slump in the cost of imported merchandise was the biggest since 2009.

Year-over-year declines in the costs of imported capital equipment and consumer goods excluding motor vehicles were the largest since 2002.

Four-Week Average

In the report on jobless claims, the four-week moving average was little changed at 275,750 last week.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits edged up by 1,000 to 2.26 million in the week ended Aug. 29. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.7 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

Federal Reserve policy makers, considering raising interest rates this year for the first time since 2006, have noted the strides being made in the labor market, while acknowledging that some slack remains. They are scheduled to meet Sept. 16-17.

Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings, and a sustained low level of applications has typically coincided with faster job gains. In an environment of accelerating employment growth, many weekly layoffs may also reflect company- or industry-specific causes, such as cost-cutting or business restructuring, rather than underlying labor market trends.

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