Jobless Claims Near Four-Decade Low Ahead of U.S. Payrolls Data

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U.S. Jobless Claims Fall to 249,000 Ahead of Sept. Data

Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week to the second-lowest level since 1973, as employers show scant willingness to fire workers amid a tightening labor market.

Jobless claims dropped by 5,000 to 249,000 in the week ended Oct. 1, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for 256,000. Continuing claims declined to the lowest level since 2000.

Filings were just a hair above the four-decade low of 248,000 from April, a sign of minimal layoffs ahead of Friday’s monthly employment report. Companies are going head-to-head in finding skilled applicants amid record job openings, indications of a healthy labor market that may encourage Federal Reserve officials to raise the benchmark interest rate before the end of the year.

“There’s no question about it, these are good numbers,” David Sloan, senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York. “The implication here is that the payrolls trend will remain healthy. The big picture is consistent with the Fed raising rates at some point this year, most likely in December.”

The Labor Department’s employment report is projected to show a pickup in job gains last month. The U.S. probably added 172,000 people to payrolls and the unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent, according to the median estimates of economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Below Estimates

Estimates for jobless claims ranged from 250,000 to 270,000. The prior week’s reading was unrevised at 254,000.

Filings have been below 300,000 for 83 straight weeks -- the longest streak since 1970 and a level economists say is typical for a healthy labor market.

No states were estimated last week and there was nothing unusual in the data, according to the Labor Department.

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, dropped to 253,500, the lowest since December 1973, from 256,000 in the prior week.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits declined by 6,000 to 2.06 million in the week ended Sept. 24. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.