Key jobs data lifts US hopes
Washington, December 28, 2012
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment aid fell last week to nearly its lowest level in four-and-a-half years, a possible sign that employers have picked up the pace of hiring.
Initial claims dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 350,000, the Labour Department said yesterday. The prior week's figure was revised to show 1,000 more applications than previously reported.
After rising in the wake of a storm that ravaged the East Coast in late October, the weekly levels of new claims have dropped to their lowest levels since the early days of the 2007-09 recession. The four-week moving average fell 11,250 last week to 356,750, the lowest since March 2008.
The data for last week has no direct relation to the department's monthly employment report, but suggests the surge in layoffs since the recession has at least run its course.
Firms in recent months have been adding to their payrolls at a lacklustre pace, and analysts expect the monthly employment report on January 4 will show 143,000 jobs created in December, down from 146,000 in November.
Data could point to a stronger pace of hiring, but analysts are cautious about extrapolating from the weekly data. "There is usually a high margin of error in predicting the monthly payroll number," said Michelle Meyer, senior economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, New York. "That's even more the case this month from the residual effects of the hurricane and year-end seasonal adjustments."
While the report on claims had a positive tone, it included a caveat, at least for the latest week.
Obama declared Monday a holiday for federal workers and state offices followed suit and were unable to provide complete data for claims. Data for 19 states was estimated, a department official said.
Fourteen states, including Texas and California, submitted estimates, which tend to be fairly accurate because officials work with a significant amount of data.
Besides the holiday, there were no special factors influencing data. Continuing claims fell 32,000 to 3.206 million. In a report, the Chicago Federal Reserve said its index of factory activity in the Midwest increased in November to 93.7 from a revised 92.2 in October.-Reuters