Jobless claims drop

January 8, 2015 10:05 AM

Fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as labor-market tightening compelled employers to hold on to seasonal hires.

Jobless claims decreased by 4,000 to 294,000 in the week ended Jan. 3, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The median forecast of 45 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a decline to 290,000.

Employers finding it harder to fill vacancies are probably holding on to workers more workers hired during the holidays as the economy expands and consumers spending picks up. The need to keep staff may mean companies will soon need to also boost wages.

Claims are “low enough to be consistent with very big payroll gains,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics Inc. in White Plains, New York, said in a research note. “If the economy strengthens again in the first half, it could easily dip to new lows.”

Stock-index futures held earlier gains after the report. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in March climbed 0.8 percent to 2,035.6 at 8:46 a.m. in New York on speculation central banks will support growth even as the American economy shows signs of strength.

Claims estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 285,000 to 300,000. The prior weeks’ figure was unrevised at 298,000. The number of applications dropped as low as 266,000 in mid October, a 14-year low.

Nothing Unusual

There was nothing unusual in the claims data and no states were estimated, a Labor Department spokesman said as the report was released to the press.

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, declined to 290,500 from 290,750 the week before.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits climbed by 101,000 to 2.45 million in the week ended Dec. 27. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.8 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

A report yesterday showed companies added more workers than forecast in December, as the pickup in household spending drove economic expansion and boosted corporate headcounts. ADP Research Institute recorded a 241,000 increase in employment, the biggest since June.

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