News

Jobless claims fall, holiday sales rise

Jobless claims fall, holiday sales rise

JOBLESS: A man picks up a leaflet at a job fair in Los Angeles, on Nov. 18. Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in nearly a month, a hopeful sign for the labor market, while holiday retail sales rose in November and December.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased 42,000 to a seasonally adjusted 338,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

While the holiday season has made recent claims data so volatile it has been difficult to interpret, Thursday’s report showed claims continue in a range that supports expectations for faster economic growth next year.

“With labor markets on the mend and consumer confidence on the rise, we look for broader economic improvement to continue pushing claims (lower),” said Gennadiy Goldberg, an analyst at TD Securities in New York.

New claims have trended higher since September. Economists, however, say the level of claims is still consistent with job growth, and other labor market indicators have pointed to a strengthening labor market.

The four-week moving average for new claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, increased 4,250 to 348,000.

“The underlying trend remains favorable,” said Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “We will be able to muster stronger job growth in 2014.”

The claims figures appeared to have little impact on U.S. stock prices and government bond yields, which both rose in thin trading.

Stronger consumer spending appeared to push the U.S. economy to accelerate in the second half of the year and most economists expect the momentum will carry over into 2014.

The holiday season has also shown positive signs, with sales growing from a year earlier as retailers used deeper discounts and promotions to attract customers, according to data from MasterCard Advisors.

Citing an improving labor market, the Federal Reserve earlier this month announced it would reduce its monthly $85 billion bond buying program by $10 billion starting in January.

Payrolls increased solidly in October and November. The unemployment rate dropped to a five-year low of 7.0 percent in November.

A Labor Department analyst said no states had submitted partial or estimated date. But he noted that claims were still in a period of volatility related to the holidays. The volatility is caused by the difficulty inherent in adjusting weekly data for seasonal factors like retailers and schools adjusting the sizes of their staff for the winter season.

Claims for the prior week were revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to fall to 345,000 last week.

The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid rose 46,000 to 2.923 million in the week ended Dec.14.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Additional reporting by Richard Leong in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Nick Zieminski and Dan Grebler)

Recent Headlines

in Sports

Harlem Globetrotter great Marques Haynes dies at 89

Fresh
** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, FEB. 16-17 ** Former Harlem Globetrotters great Marques Haynes holds a photo circa 1951 of himself in his Globetrotters uniform Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008, in Plano, Texas. Haynes played in the legendary game 60 years ago, Feb. 19, 1948, when the Globetrotters beat the Minneapolis Lakers and their big man, George Mikan, 61-59 at Chicago Stadium.

The Globetrotters will dedicate their 90th anniversary tour in 2016 to Haynes and will wear a uniform patch in tribute.

in Sports

This week’s top sports shots

AP477743932569_4

A look at some of this week's biggest plays and best moments in sports.

in Sports

Cavs’ Irving held out of Game 2 with sore left knee; Hawks’ Carroll starting

Fresh
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving celebrates after making a 3-point basket against the Golden State Warriors during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 14, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. Cleveland won 103-94.

Irving had been listed as questionable after scoring only 10 points and sitting out the final 8 minutes of the Cavaliers' victory in Game 1.

in Entertainment

PLAYLIST: 19 of the best Summer songs

Patriotic Music

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. Start your season off right with this playlist spanning the '60s to now.

in Sports

Brewers’ Smith suspended 8 games for rosin, sunscreen on arm

Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Will Smith (13) is ejected during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves for allegedly using pine tar, Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Atlanta.

Milwaukee Brewers reliever Will Smith has been suspended for eight games for having a foreign substance on his pitching arm during a game at Atlanta.

Bellingham Traffic