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By Shobhana Chandra
WASHINGTON - The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits rose less than forecast last week as annual auto shutdowns continued to influence the number.
Jobless claims climbed by 8,000 to 365,000 in the week ended July 28, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for an increase to 370,000. Starting next week, the data should be clear of any influence from the annual auto plant retooling closures that make it difficult to adjust the data for seasonal variations, a Labor Department spokesman said as the report was released to the press.
Apart from the statistical noise, the job market may take time to heal as a global slowdown and looming U.S. fiscal policy changes in the world’s biggest economy keep employers reluctant to add workers. Unemployment above 8 percent is among reasons Federal Reserve policy makers yesterday said they would take new steps as needed to boost the expansion.
“It is still a difficult job market,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Penn. “Companies are not panicking by cutting workers. They are going to wait out the uncertainty related to Europe and the U.S. fiscal cliff.”
Stock-index futures dropped as European Central Bank President Mario Draghi failed to reassure investors that policy makers were ready to take immediate steps to support the region’s economy after the central bank left its benchmark rate unchanged. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in September fell 0.9 percent to 1,358.8 at 9:02 a.m. in New York.
Claims estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 340,000 to 390,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week’s figure up to 357,000 from an initially reported 353,000.
Another report today showed employers announced fewer job cuts in July than the same month last year as dismissals eased at retailers, government agencies and some manufacturers.
Planned firings fell 44.5 percent from July 2011 to a 15- month low of 36,855, according to figures released by Chicago- based Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. The year-over-year decline in dismissals was the biggest since January 2011.
The four-week moving average for jobless claims, a less volatile measure than the weekly figures, fell to 365,500 last week, the lowest since March, from 368,250.
The employment report for July, to be released tomorrow, is projected to show payrolls increased by 100,000 after a 80,000 gain in June, according to the Bloomberg survey median. The jobless rate, which has been stuck above 8 percent since February 2009, was probably at 8.2 percent for a third moth.
Today’s report showed the number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 19,000 in the week ended July 21 to 3.27 million, a two-month low.
The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.
Those who’ve used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments decreased by about 46,500 to 2.55 million in the week ended July 14.
The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits, which tends to track the jobless rate, held at 2.6 percent, today’s report showed.