The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, a sign the job market is sustaining progress.
Jobless claims dropped by 8,000 to 287,000 in the week ended Sept. 27, from a revised 295,000 in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 297,000. Continuing claims decreased to an eight-year low.
Firings are hovering close to decade lows as employers benefiting from rising demand retain staff, laying the ground for more hiring and wage gains. A report tomorrow is projected to show employers added to payrolls in September and the jobless rate held at a six-year low.
“The low level of layoffs indicates demand for workers is solid,” said Guy Berger, a U.S. economist at RBS Securities Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut, who’s among the top claims forecasters over the past two years in data compiled by Bloomberg. “The economy in incrementally improving and employers want to hold on to workers and potentially add more.”
Stock-index futures held earlier gains after the report. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (CME:SPZ14) maturing in December climbed 0.2% to 1,944.1 at 8:39 a.m. in New York.
No states estimated data last week and there was nothing unusual in the report, an agency spokesman said as the figures were released.
Economists’ claims estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 285,000 to 320,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week’s figure from an initially reported 293,000.
The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure than the weekly figures, fell to 294,750 last week from 299,000.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits declined by 45,000 to 2.4 million in the week ended Sept. 20, the fewest since June 2006. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits that week held at 1.8%.
Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and typically wane before job growth can accelerate.
Companies hired 213,000 workers in September, figures from the ADP Research Institute in Roseland, New Jersey, showed yesterday.
Retailers adding staff include Macy’s Inc. The Cincinnati-based company, owner of the Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s chains, said this week that it plans to hire about 86,000 seasonal workers to handle the year-end holiday rush for its department stores, an increase of 3.6% from the year-earlier period.
Payrolls grew by 215,000 in September after 142,000 the prior month, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey ahead of Labor Department data due to be released tomorrow. The unemployment rate may have held at 6.1%, economists in the survey predicted.
Federal Reserve policy makers are watching for evidence the labor market has been restored to full health before raising interest rates, which have been held near zero since December 2008. Most Fed policy makers indicate they expect an initial rate rise next year.