December 12, 2017

Claims for Jobless Benefits Inch Higher

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits edged higher last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, but the four-week average dropped to its lowest level in five years and pointed to ongoing healing in the labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000. Economists polled by Reuters had expected 342,000 first-time applications last week.

The four-week moving average for new claims, a measure of labor market trends, fell 7,500 to 339,750, the lowest level since February 2008.

Still, while layoffs have ebbed over recent months, companies have been cautious about adding new employees and the Federal Reserve has appeared worried that belt tightening by the government could dampen progress made in the labor market.

The Fed on Wednesday pressed forward with its aggressive policy stimulus, pointing to still-high unemployment, fiscal headwinds out of Washington and risks from abroad.

The Fed action came despite a rash of recent data showing the economy gathering strength. Retail sales have been stronger than expected, manufacturing output has picked up and employment growth has quickened, with the jobless rate dropping to 7.7 percent last month from 7.9 percent in January.

Last week, the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid rose 5,000 to 3.053 million in the week ended March 9.

The previous week’s claims figure was revised to show 2,000 more applications than previously reported.

Separately, a private group said home resales in the United States hit a three-year high in February and prices jumped, adding to signs of an acceleration in the housing market recovery, even though the supply of properties on the market increased.

The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales increased 0.8 percent to an annual rate of 4.98 million units last month, the highest level since November 2009. The January sales pace was revised up a 4.94 million units from the previously reported 4.92 million units.

Homes took about 74 days to sell in February, according to the median estimate, down from 97 days from a year ago.

The rise in sales last month was the latest indication that the housing market was gaining more ground. Data this week showed builders broke ground on more houses in February and permits for future construction approached a five-year high.

“With buying conditions remaining very supportive to demand and overall economic fundamentals continuing to improve, we expect the momentum in housing activity to improve further, providing a supportive backdrop for the recovery more generally,” said Millan Mulraine, a senior economist at TD Securities in New York.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/22/business/economy/claims-for-jobless-benefits-inch-higher.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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