Jobless claims in U.S. unexpectedly decline to 305,000

Economists’ Estimates

Economists’ estimates for jobless claims in the Bloomberg survey ranged from claims of 310,000 to 370,000 after the prior week’s previously reported 309,000.

The four-week average dropped to 308,000 from 315,000 in the prior week, today’s Labor Department report showed.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits increased by 35,000 to 2.82 million in the week ended Sept. 14. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

Those who have used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments increased by about 32,500 to 1.35 million in the week ended Sept. 7.

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits increased to 2.2% in the week ended Sept. 14.

Thirty-eight states and territories reported an increase in claims, while 15 reported a decline. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

Labor Outlook

While the labor market has shown improvement, the slow pace may be a source of concern for some consumers. The Conference Board’s confidence index fell to 79.7 this month, the weakest reading since May. The share of Americans who said jobs would become more plentiful in the next six months fell to 16.9% from 17.5%.

At the same time, the gap between those who said work opportunities are currently scarce, and those who said they’re easy to get, shrank to the lowest since September 2008.

“You’re definitely seeing the assessment of the labor market improve,” said Jacob Oubina, senior economist at RBC Capital Markets LLC in New York.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is among companies hiring after eliminating positions during the recession. The retailer is taking on 55,000 seasonal workers and adding another 70,000 part-time and full-time workers as it gears up for the holiday season and reverses workforce reductions that made it hard to keep store shelves stocked.

The U.S. workforce at Wal-Mart’s namesake and Sam’s Club warehouse chains fell by about 120,000 employees in the past five years, to about 1.3 million, according to regulatory filings. In that time, the company has added more than 500 U.S. stores through July 31.

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