Jobless Claims in U.S. Decline to Lowest Level Since Mid-July

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Filings for unemployment benefits in the U.S. declined last week to the lowest level since mid-July, extending a run of applications near decade lows that shows dismissals remain in check.

Jobless claims fell by 13,000 to 263,000 in the week ended Oct. 3, the fewest since July 18, a Labor Department report showed Thursday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for 274,000 applications.

Managers are reluctant to trim staffing levels because domestic demand is holding up in the face of diminished global growth expectations. A report last week showed employers are instead reining in the pace of new hires as they assess sales prospects.

“Payrolls have been slower for a couple months, but there’s been no real sign of claims showing any change in trend,” David Sloan, a senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York, said before the report. “Claims should remain quite low.”

There was nothing unusual in the figures, the Labor Department said in a statement. Estimates in the Bloomberg survey for jobless claims ranged from 260,000 to 280,000. The Labor Department revised the prior week’s reading to 276,000 from an initially reported 277,000.

The Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration estimated last week’s claims for South Carolina, which was paralyzed by heavy rains and flooding. Estimates were also provided by Nevada, where officials are updating reporting systems, a U.S. Labor Department spokesman said as the report was released to the press.

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, dropped to 267,500, the lowest since first week of August, from 270,500.

Continuing Claims

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 9,000 to 2.2 million in the week ended Sept. 26. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.6 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

Claims, since the beginning of March, have held below the 300,000 level that economists say is consistent with strength in the job market.

While applications for jobless benefits point to limited dismissals, weakness in the global economy is starting to give some companies reason to pause their hiring efforts. Payrolls rose by 142,000 in September and revisions to prior reports cut a total of 59,000 jobs from the previous two months, Labor Department data showed last week. Wages stagnated and the jobless rate held at a seven-year-low 5.1 percent as Americans left the labor force.

Federal Reserve officials held off on raising the benchmark interest rate in September, citing a murkier global growth picture and lack of confidence in the trajectory for inflation. The policy makers next meet Oct. 27-28 in Washington.

Michelle Jamrisko

–With assistance from Jordan Yadoo in Washington

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