WASHINGTON (11/15/13)--First-time jobless claims in the U.S. continued to edge downward last week, said a report published Thursday by the Labor Department.
Jobless claims for the week ending Nov. 9 fell to 339,000 from a revised 341,000 measured for the week ending Nov. 2. It was the fifth consecutive week that first-time claims have decreased.
In another sign that the economy has gradually improved over the past few weeks, the four-week moving average of first-time jobless claims for the week ending Nov. 9 fell to 344,000 from 349,750. While the total number of people on jobless benefits was unchanged at 2.87 million, the four-week moving average of that measure decreased by 2,000--also to 2.87 million.
But economic woes persist. Layoffs have been at a two-year low recently, but businesses remain reluctant to hire (Economy.com Nov. 14).
Analysts insist that consumer expenditures, which account for about 70% of economic activity, are needed to boost growth and hiring in the fourth quarter (Bloomberg.com Nov. 14). And the four-week moving average of first-time claims in August--prior to the claims processing backlog in California caused by a change in computer systems, and the confidence-corroding partial government shutdown--the four week moving average of first time claims was 328,750.
Economists polled by Bloomberg made predictions about first-time claims that ranged from 325,000 to 350,000.