Fewer Americans are filing applications for unemployment benefits, consumer confidence is rising and manufacturing is picking up as the world’s largest economy shows additional signs of strengthening.
Jobless claims fell by 6,000 to 312,000 in the week ended June 14, the Labor Department reported Thursday in Washington. Households this month were the most optimistic about the economic outlook in a year, factories in the Philadelphia region expanded at a faster pace and the index of leading indicators rose in May for the fourth straight month, other reports showed.
“The economy will look healthier in the second half of the year,” said Michelle Meyer, senior U.S. economist at Bank of America Corp. in New York. “It’s a combination of factors moving in the right direction reinforcing one another: manufacturing building momentum, the labor market continuing to improve and support consumer spending and business investment turning higher.”
The pickup supports Federal Reserve forecasts that the economic expansion will gather steam after a first-quarter slump, keeping policy makers on track to continue trimming stimulus this year. At the same time, still-elevated unemployment and restrained wage growth mean that central bankers can maintain monetary stimulus.
Stocks fluctuated between gains and losses after the Standard & Poor’s 500 closed at a record on Wednesday when the Fed promised to keep interest rates low. The S&P 500 fell 0.1 percent to 1,955.09 at 12:36 p.m. in New York.
Thursday’s report from the Labor Department showed the number of workers receiving jobless benefits decreased to the lowest level in almost seven years. Continuing claims dropped by 54,000 to 2.56 million in the week ended June 7, the fewest since October 2007. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits declined to 1.9 percent from 2 percent the prior week.