Applications for US jobless aid dip 32K to 300,000 - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Applications for US jobless aid dip 32K to 300,000

Updated:
WASHINGTON -

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest level in almost seven years, falling 32,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 300,000.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, fell 4,750 to 316,250.

"It's collaborating with the other signals we have been seeing, which is the jobs market is slowly improving. Some of the drop is normalizing from this winter's depressive effect," said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Fewer Americans sought benefits last week than at any point since the Great Recession began at the end of 2007. Applications are at their lowest level since May of that year.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The decrease suggests that employers expect stronger economic growth in the coming months and are holding onto their workers.

But Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, cautioned that the drop-off might be smaller than it appears. He noted that the Easter holiday, which moves from year-to-year, might have distorted the seasonal adjustments.

"We need to see a few more weeks' numbers before we can be sure where the trend now stands," Shepherdson said in a client note. "Our core view is that claims are drifting gently downwards."

Employers added 192,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said last week. That follows gains of 197,000 in February, as the unemployment rate stayed at 6.7 percent for the second straight month.

The so-called "real" unemployment rate (officially known as the U-6 rate) rose in March to 12.7 percent, according to CNBC. While that rate has also gone down over the last year, the trend has been more volatile than in the main unemployment rate, which steadily declined.

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