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Jobless Claims in U.S. Fall to Lowest Level in Five Years

By Lorraine Woellert – Aug 1, 2013 5:48 AM PT

Applications (INJCJC) for unemployment insurance payments declined by 19,000 to 326,000 in the week ended July 27, the fewest since January 2008, from a revised 345,000 the prior week, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 50 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 345,000. A government analyst said no states were estimated, and the data were still being influenced by the auto plant shutdowns that play havoc with the figures at this time of year.

Businesses have been operating with tight workforces as they wait for signs of a sustained pickup in consumer demand. A slowdown in firings might signal that employers are becoming more confident in the recovery and preparing to expand payrolls, which would encourage household spending, the biggest part of the economy.

“It’s a stronger labor market than anybody thought we’d be seeing this time of year,” said Guy Berger, an economist at RBS Securities Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut, noting the claims data are affected by auto plant shutdowns that have occurred on a smaller scale this year. “We’re talking about continued decent payroll growth.”

Stock-index futures added to earlier gains after the report. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in September climbed 0.8 percent to 1,693.4 at 8:47 a.m. in New York after a report showed China’s manufacturing unexpectedly grew in July and investors watched corporate earnings.

Claims estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 333,000 to 365,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week’s figure to 345,000 from an initially reported 343,000.

Continuing Benefits
The number of people continuing to collect jobless benefits dropped by 52,000 to 2.95 million in the week ended July 20. That doesn’t include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

The number of job seekers who’ve exhausted traditional state benefits and are collecting emergency and extended payments decreased by about 52,500 to 1.57 million in the week ended July 13.

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 2.3 percent in the week ended July 20, today’s report showed.

Forty-five states and territories reported a decline in claims and seven reported an increase, data that is reported with a one-week lag.

Initial jobless claims measure weekly firings and typically wane before job growth can accelerate.

Employment Forecast
Payrolls rose by 195,000 workers in June, indicating the U.S. is poised for faster growth as it shakes off the impact of this year’s tax increases and budget cuts. A Labor Department report tomorrow may show employment rose by another 185,000 last month, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The jobless rate fell to 7.5 percent, matching a four-year low, from 7.6 percent in June, economists projected.

The Labor Department projected a 13 percent drop in un-adjusted claims for last week, or about 44,000. Instead, there was a 17.7 percent decrease.

While some companies cut workers, Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) is requiring employees to take unpaid leave this year as part of a strategy to cut costs amid slowing sales. Those “rolling layoffs” are meant to be temporary, director of investor relations Mike DeWalt said. The company, in Peoria, Illinois, is the largest maker of mining and construction machinery, cut its 2013 earnings forecast this week.

“When economic and construction activities begin to improve in the world, particularly in the U.S. and hopefully, eventually in Europe, it should be a positive for our business,” DeWalt said on a July 24 earnings call.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lorraine Woellert in Washington at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at
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