US unemployment aid applications decline to 366KBy CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER
The Associated Press | February 08,2013AP PHOTO
In this Wednesday photo, job applicants complete forms at a job fair sponsored by Swissport, in Newark N.J. The Labor Department reported the number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits for the first time in the last week.WASHINGTON — Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, indicating companies continue to hire at a modest but steady pace.
The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 350,500, the lowest in nearly five years. The average is low because of seasonal factors, which reduced applications sharply last month.
Still, economists were encouraged by the decline.
Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. When layoffs decline, net hiring typically rises.
The drop in the four-week average “is good news and supports the view that the U.S. labor market is gradually improving,” said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets.
The four-week average of applications has dropped nearly 6 percent in the past three months. At the same time, hiring has picked up: Employers added an average of 200,000 jobs a month from November through January.
In January, employers added 157,000 jobs. And annual revisions included in the Labor Department’s January employment report showed the economy created 600,000 more jobs in 2011 and 2012 than previously thought.
Still, the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent in January from 7.8 percent in December. Economists expect unemployment will decline if hiring continues at last year’s monthly pace of 180,000. The rate fell 0.7 percentage points in 2012.
Overall, nearly 5.6 million people received unemployment benefits in the week ended Jan. 19, the latest data available. That’s about 325,000 fewer than the previous week.
That’s also less than half the number of unemployed, which stood at 12.3 million last month. Many of the unemployed aren’t eligible for benefits, while others have used up all the benefits available to them.
More hiring and income are needed to fuel greater economic growth. The economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the October-December quarter.
But the decline was mostly caused by deep cuts in defense spending and sluggish growth in company stockpiles — one-time events that analysts say are likely rebounding in the current quarter.
Economists expect growth of around 2 percent this year. Strength in areas like housing and auto sales could partly offset government spending cuts this year.
Home builders are stepping up construction to meet rising demand. That should create more construction jobs. Home prices and sales are also increasing.
The housing recovery is boosting jobs at home-supply stores and retailers. Home Depot said Wednesday that it plans to hire 80,000 temporary employees for the spring selling season. The jobs will be part-time and full-time, the company said.MORE IN National / World BusinessBOSTON — As an employee revolt at a New England grocery store chain headed into its fifth week,... Full StorySAN FRANCISCO — Google’s IPO, a decade ago this week, launched the company on a trajectory that... Full Story
- Most Popular
- Most Emailed
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: Jim Jeffords' legacy, Brandon takes a few questions about proposed budget, beleaguered city playground likely to move, woman awakes to find strange man with knives standing at her bedside.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: Former U.S. Senator James Jeffords dies Monday in Washington D.C., a local man is beaten and robbed while walking on West Street, Clarendon sets a tax rate and Brandon convenes an informational public meeting about its budget.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1915, the New York World publishes scoop: Thom. Edison diverts chemical from war production to help German pharmaceutical company make aspirin; on this day in 1935, Will Rogers, Wiley Post die in Alaska plane crash.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: State panel briefed on smuggling drugs into prisons; new French-German documentary about Vermont's heroin addiction; solar project at Vets Home falls apart; update dispute between Open Door Mission and treatment center.
- TODAY'S WEATHER MINUTE: Climatologists might not know as much about El Nino as they thought they knew. New studies show 10,000 years ago, El Nino was active, and polar ice sheets were rapidly melting — just like today.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: State colleges get a budget cut break, vandals spray paint Wallingford basketball court, state's attorney will replace lost deputies, cop lawsuit proceeds, Mendon mini-golf proposal makes headway.