Jobless claims in U.S. fall to four-year low in new quarter

Jobless Benefits

The number of people continuing to collect jobless benefits dropped by 15,000 to 3.27 million in the week ended Sept. 29. 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 decreased by about 23,000 to 2.14 million in the week ended Sept. 22.

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 2.6 percent in the week ended Sept. 29. Twenty-eight states and territories reported an increase in claims, while 25 reported a decrease.

Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth -- measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report -- accelerates.

Labor market news was mixed last month, according to the most recent data on employment from the Labor Department. The jobless rate dropped to 7.8 percent in September, the first reading below 8 percent since January 2009. On the other hand, payrolls expanded by 114,000, the least since June.

Brighter job prospects may help President Barack Obama as the November elections draw nearer. With economic issues central to the race, the 0.3 percentage-point drop in unemployment aids the president’s case against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Businesses’ hiring and firing plans, nonetheless, could affect work opportunities in coming weeks. Cummins Inc., a maker of engines, said this week it expected to cut as many as 1,500 jobs by the end of 2012 as its outlook for revenue and profit worsened.

“We continued to see weak economic data in a number of regions during the third quarter, increasing the level of uncertainty regarding the direction of the global economy,” Chief Executive Officer Tom Linebarger said in an Oct. 9 statement. “As a result of the heightened uncertainty, end customers are delaying capital expenditures in a number of markets, lowering demand for our products.”

Bloomberg News

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