The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits fell by 27,000 to 3.05 million in the week ended March 16, the fewest since June 2008.
Claims numbers may increase next month as Lockheed Martin Corp., Raytheon Co. and other companies that do business with the U.S. government prepare for leaner times. Under a 2011 budget agreement, federal agencies’ spending authority was cut by $85 billion this fiscal year in a process known as sequestration. The reductions are expected to total $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
Raytheon Co. this week said it would consolidate its businesses and shed about 200 employees.
The Defense Department has said that as many as 750,000 of its civilian workers may be forced to work fewer hours and take the equivalent of a 20% pay cut.
Claims may “rise a little bit as we get into April because we’re likely to see some job cuts related to the sequester,” said Russell Price, a senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Inc. in Detroit.