The number of people continuing to collect jobless benefits dropped by 135,000 to 3.13 million in the week ended Oct. 27, the fewest in four years. 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 increased by about 20,000 to 2.15 million in the week ended Oct. 20.
The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits fell to 2.4 percent in the week ended Oct. 27. Twenty-seven states and territories reported an increase in claims, while 26 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.
Last week’s payroll report wasn’t affected by Hurricane Sandy. Businesses in the U.S. hired 184,000 workers in October, the most since February, indicating they see enough demand to expand even in the face of the tax increases and spending cuts slated for next year.
Even so, the employment increase indicates the labor market hasn’t been able to accelerate in 2012. Gains in total payrolls so far this year have averaged 157,000 a month, little changed from the 153,000 average for 2011.
A separate survey of households showed the jobless rate rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September as 578,000 people joined the workforce is search of a job, swamping the 410,000 gain in employment.
General Motors Co. is among manufacturers hiring as the U.S. auto industry makes a comeback after government bailouts during the depths of the financial crisis.
Detroit-based GM, the largest U.S. automaker, has said it will hire about 10,000 workers as part of its plan to bring more work in-house. The new so-called Innovation Center in Warren, Michigan, is one of four facilities planned in the U.S.