Initial jobless claims slump as two U.S. states underreport

Four-Week Average

The four-week moving average of jobless claims, a less volatile measure than the weekly figures, fell to 321,250 last week, the lowest since October 2007, from 328,750.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 73,000 to 2.87 million in the week ended Aug. 31. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans 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 40,000 to 1.46 million in the week ended Aug. 24.

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits fell to 2.2% in the last week of August, from 2.3%.

Thirty-four states and territories reported a decline in claims, while 19 reported an increase. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

August Employment

Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and typically wane before job growth can accelerate. Payrolls expanded by 169,000 workers last month after rising 104,000 in July, Labor Department data showed on Sept. 6. The average over the two months was the smallest since June and July of last year. The jobless rate dropped to 7.3% in August, the lowest since December 2008, as workers left the labor force.

At the same time, the percentage of small-business owners planning to hire more workers rose in August to its highest level since 2007, a National Federation of Independent Business report showed this week. The index climbed to 16% from 9% the prior month.

Some companies in the health care industry are adding jobs. In Dallas and Park City, Utah, staffing company Supplemental Health Care is partnering with Parkland Health & Hospital Systems to recruit and hire full-time employees, Supplemental said in a Sept. 10 release. In the past 8 months, the staffing company has filled 500 full-time Parkland positions, the release stated.

Current Recruiting

“As the necessity for qualified healthcare providers increases under the Affordable Care Act, organizations are looking for ways to improve upon current recruiting and hiring practices,”  Janet Elkin, chief executive officer for Supplemental, was quoted in the statement.

At the same time, higher mortgage rates are taking a toll on lenders. Bank of America is cutting 2,100 employees and closing 16 offices by Oct. 31, people with knowledge of the plan said. Refinancing activity has declined following a recent climb in mortgage rates that has crimped demand.

Federal Reserve officials, set to meet Sept. 17-18, are watching the job market along with other economic data to determine when to begin scaling back the central bank’s $85 billion in monthly asset purchases. Policy makers in July affirmed a pledge to continue bond buying until they saw signs the outlook for the labor market has “improved substantially.”

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