Jobless claims in the U.S. rose less than forecast last week as two states began working through a backlog of applications that were caused by computer-system changeovers.
Applications for unemployment benefits climbed by 15,000 to 309,000 in the week ended Sept. 14 from a revised 294,000 in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 53 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an increase to 330,000. A Labor Department spokesman said it could be a week or two before the state employment agencies are able to catch up on applications.
Looking beyond the latest swings in jobless claims, fewer dismissals would set the stage for larger gains in hiring and growth in consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. The labor market has shown gradual improvement, according to Federal Reserve policy makers who unexpectedly decided yesterday to maintain stimulus to ensure the economic expansion gains traction.
“I think the labor market is genuinely improving,” said Brian Jones, senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York. “Even if they’re working through the backlog, these numbers seem to have a little bit more behind them than just processing problems.”
Stock-index futures rose, indicating the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index will extend its all-time high, as investors weighed yesterday’s decision by the Fed to prolong stimulus. The contract on the S&P 500 expiring in December rose 0.3 percent to 1,722.7 at 8:37 a.m. in New York.
Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from claims of 310,000 to 360,000 after the prior week’s previously reported 292,000 that was the lowest level since April 2006.
Computer-system changeovers by California and Nevada employment agencies were largely responsible for the decline in the first week of September, officials in those states said last week. Filings from California dropped 25,412 in the first week of September, today’s numbers showed.
No states were estimated last week, the Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released.
The four-week average fell to 314,750, the lowest since October 2007.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits declined by 28,000 to 2.79 million in the week ended Sept. 7. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.
Those who have used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments were little changed at 1.46 million in the week ended Aug. 31.
The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits dropped to 2.1 percent in the week ended Sept. 7 from 2.2 percent.
Forty states and territories reported a decrease in claims, while 13 reported an increase. These data are reported with a one-week lag.
Fed officials yesterday refrained from reducing the $85 billion pace of monthly bond buying, saying it needs to see more signs of lasting improvement in the economy. The Fed’s Open Market Committee said in a statement that “labor market conditions have shown further improvement in recent months, on balance, but the unemployment rate remains elevated.”
Last week included the 12th of the month, which coincides with the period the Labor Department surveys employers to calculate monthly payroll data. The four-week average was down from the 330,500 average during the comparable period in August.
Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and typically decrease before job growth picks up.
Clothing retailer Uniqlo is among those hiring after announcing fall opening dates for 10 new mall stores in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and California.
The store is in the process of hiring and training “several hundred” full- and part-time employees at all levels, according to a Sept. 3 statement. Uniqlo is a brand of Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., a Japanese retail holding company.
--With assistance from Kristy Scheuble in Washington. Editor: Vince Golle
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