December 3, 2023

Filings for Unemployment Benefits Drop

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, partly reversing a sharp increase in applications the previous week.

The department said the number of people applying for unemployment benefits dropped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 403,000 in the week ended April 16. Applications rose 31,000 a week earlier.

Applications near 375,000 are consistent with sustainable job growth. Applications peaked during the recession at 659,000.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose for a second week to 399,000, which is about 10,000 higher than it was a month ago.

The average has fallen about 7 percent since late January, but applications have plateaued in recent weeks.

The total number of people receiving unemployment benefits declined to 3.7 million. But that does not include millions of the unemployed who are getting benefits under emergency programs enacted by Congress during the recession. Including those programs, 8.3 million people received unemployment benefits during the week ending April 2, the latest data available. That was a drop of more than 200,000 from the previous week.

In a second economic report, a private research group said its measure of future economic activity rose 0.4 percent in March, the ninth consecutive monthly increase.

The group, the Conference Board, said its index of leading economic indicators began moving higher last fall as the jobless rate dropped and the stock market rallied. It had risen a revised 1 percent in February. The gains in the index suggest that the economy will strengthen as summer approaches, despite rising oil and food prices and the impact of the earthquake in Japan, the world’s third-largest economy.

In March, the index received a lift from signs of growing demand in the American manufacturing sector and a rebound from a five-decade low in building permits. The permits signal future construction in the housing market.

Economists surveyed by FactSet had expected the index to grow 0.3 percent in March.

Finally, a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found that manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia area fell more than forecast in April.

The bank’s broadest index fell to 18.5, from 43.4 in March. That was the highest level since 1984. Readings above zero indicate expansion.

Increases in input prices continue to be widespread, according to a release, and a significant percentage of companies reported higher prices for their own manufactured goods.

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