US Unemployment Benefit Applications Plunge to 15-year Low - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

US Unemployment Benefit Applications Plunge to 15-year Low

Posted:

WASHINGTON (AP)- The number of people seeking unemployment aid plunged last week to the lowest level in almost 15 years, a sign hiring will likely remain healthy.

Weekly applications dropped 43,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That is the lowest level since April 2000. It is also the biggest decline in two years. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 8,250 to 298,500.

The latest drop may have been exaggerated by the federal holiday, which likely slowed the processing of some claims.

Still, applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the sharp decline means companies are probably cutting fewer jobs. The four-week average has fallen 11 percent in the past year. At the same time, hiring has picked up. Employers added almost 3 million jobs last year, the most since 1999. Strong economic growth has encouraged companies to add more workers.

"This is good news," said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets. "But it was also a holiday-shortened week so there could be a special factor perhaps artificially deflating the number. A partial reversal next week ... should still show an improving labor market."

Last week included the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, when state unemployment offices were closed. That could have delayed the processing of some applications, a Labor Department spokesman said. The unemployed can apply for benefits online, though they are typically less likely to do so on a holiday. That suggests applications could rise next week.

Some of the drop also reflects the end of seasonal layoffs of temporary employees hired by retailers and restaurants for the winter holidays. Those layoffs caused a spike in applications in early January. They reached a seven-month high of 317,000 three weeks ago. The government tries to adjust for such seasonal patterns but isn't always able to do so perfectly.

Applications have been near or below 300,000 since September. That suggests companies are confident enough in the economy to hold onto their staffs.

Last year's robust hiring means that more Americans are earning paychecks than a year ago. That should boost consumer spending and help power faster economic growth this year. Most economists forecast growth will top 3 percent in 2015 for the first time in a decade.

Yet wage growth has lagged hiring. Average wages increased only 1.7 percent in 2014. That's down from 1.9 percent in 2013 and much lower than the 3.5 percent to 4 percent that is consistent with a healthy economy.

  • Business NewsMore>>

  • Sears Files for Chapter 11; to Close Another 142 Stores

    Sears Files for Chapter 11; to Close Another 142 Stores

    Monday, October 15 2018 9:46 AM EDT2018-10-15 13:46:36 GMT
    Monday, October 15 2018 10:12 AM EDT2018-10-15 14:12:10 GMT
    In this July 8, 2017, file photo people walk into a Sears store slated for closing that is next to a mall that is being torn down in Overland Park, Kan.In this July 8, 2017, file photo people walk into a Sears store slated for closing that is next to a mall that is being torn down in Overland Park, Kan.
    In this July 8, 2017, file photo people walk into a Sears store slated for closing that is next to a mall that is being torn down in Overland Park, Kan.In this July 8, 2017, file photo people walk into a Sears store slated for closing that is next to a mall that is being torn down in Overland Park, Kan.
    Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, buckling under its massive debt load and staggering losses. As part of its bankruptcy, Sears plans to close another 142 unprofitable stores, on top of 46 store closings announced in August.More
    Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, buckling under its massive debt load and staggering losses. As part of its bankruptcy, Sears plans to close another 142 unprofitable stores, on top of 46 store closings announced in August. More
  • Ahead of 3-way Split, DowDuPont Unveils New DuPont Logo

    Ahead of 3-way Split, DowDuPont Unveils New DuPont Logo

    Thursday, October 4 2018 2:31 PM EDT2018-10-04 18:31:52 GMT
    Thursday, October 4 2018 2:31 PM EDT2018-10-04 18:31:52 GMT
    Ahead of next year's spinoff, the division that will retain the DuPont name has a new look.More
    Ahead of next year's spinoff, the division that will retain the DuPont name has a new look.           More
  • Delaware Officials Eye Changes to Prevailing Wage Rules

    Delaware Officials Eye Changes to Prevailing Wage Rules

    Tuesday, October 2 2018 6:51 AM EDT2018-10-02 10:51:55 GMT
    Tuesday, October 2 2018 6:51 AM EDT2018-10-02 10:51:55 GMT
    State officials are eyeing changes to Delaware's prevailing wage regulations, which govern what workers are paid on public works projects.More
    State officials are eying changes to Delaware's prevailing wage regulations, which govern what workers are paid on public works projects.More
Powered by Frankly

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 WBOC. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices