WASHINGTON – Applications for unemployment benefits in the U.S. declined to the lowest level in almost two months, showing further healing in the labor market.
Jobless claims in the week ended Nov. 16 dropped by 21,000 to 323,000, the fewest since the week ended Sept. 28, from a revised 344,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday in Washington. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a drop to 335,000. Last week included the Veterans’ Day holiday, which makes adjusting the data for seasonal swings more difficult, a Labor Department spokesman said.
Rising sales going into the holiday-shopping period will probably prompt employers to keep current workers on staff to meet demand. Fewer firings may also lead to bigger gains in hiring that will help boost consumer spending, which accounts for almost 70 percent of the economy.
“If you want to look for good news in the labor market in 2013, that’s one of the things you look at – layoffs have come down,” Guy Berger, an economist at RBS Securities Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said before the report. “The negative end of the ledger is getting smaller, and that’s enough to allow employment to grow and unemployment to fall.”
Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 323,000 to 360,000. The prior week’s claims were revised up from an initial reading of 339,000.
No states estimated the number of claims for last week, the Labor Department said.
Another report on Thursday showed wholesale prices dropped in October for a second month, showing inflation remains tame.
The 0.2 percent decrease in the producer price index followed a 0.1 percent fall the prior month, the separate Labor Department report showed. The decline matched the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 75 economists. The so-called core measure, which strips out volatile food and fuel, climbed 0.2 percent after a 0.1 percent gain in September.