Initial jobless claims in U.S. fell last week to 377,000

June 7 (Bloomberg) -- Fewer Americans applied for unemployment insurance payments last week, indicating limited progress in the labor market after a two-month slowdown in hiring.

First-time claims for jobless benefits fell by 12,000 to 377,000 in the week ended June 2 from a revised 389,000 the prior week that was higher than initially estimated, the Labor Department said today. The median estimate of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for 378,000 claims. The number of people receiving extended payments plunged.

The claims figures may ease concern of further labor market weakness after a report last week showed employers in May added the fewest workers in a year. While sustained demand is encouraging companies to maintain headcounts, stronger sales may be required to prompt a pickup in hiring.

“It’s pretty clear claims are stabilizing,” said Michael Englund, chief economist at Action Economics LLC in Boulder, Colorado, who forecast 375,000 claims. “It’s hard to make the case that there’s any upward tilt to growth,” so companies are being cautious, he said.

Estimates ranged from 367,000 to 390,000 after an initially reported 383,000 in the previous week, according to the Bloomberg survey.

Stock-index futures maintained gains after the figure and following an interest-rate cut by China. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring this month climbed 0.7 percent to 1,324.3 at 8:41 a.m. in New York.

Four-Week Average

The four-week moving average of claims, a less-volatile measure, climbed to 377,750, the highest in a month, from 376,000.

The number of people continuing to collect jobless benefits increased 34,000 in the week ended May 26 to 3.29 million. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of workers receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

Those who’ve used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments slumped by almost 105,000 in the week ended May 19 to 2.83 million.

California, Florida, Illinois and Texas were among eight states that no longer qualified for emergency benefits as of May 12, according to a National Employment Law Project study. From April 7 through May 12, about 370,000 Americans in 23 states stopped getting the assistance, which provide payments for as long as 99 weeks, the study said.

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