WASHINGTON (8/2/13)--Initial claims for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to the lowest level in five-and-a-half years, indicating a modestly but steadily improving labor market (The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal Aug. 1).
Claims decreased 19,000--to a seasonally adjusted 326,000 for the week ended July 17. That is the lowest level since January 2008, the Labor Department said Thursday.
First-time claims were forecast to rise to 345,000 last week, according to economists surveyed in a Reuters poll.
The four-week moving-average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, declined 4,500--to 341,250.
Because businesses have been waiting for signs of a sustained boost in consumer demand, they have been operating with minimal work forces (Bloomberg.com Aug. 1).
A slowing of job cuts could indicate employers are more upbeat about the economic recovery and will make plans to expand their work forces. That, in turn, would stimulate household spending, which constitutes the largest part of the U.S. economy, Bloomberg added.
WASHINGTON (8/2/13)--Americans became less pessimistic about the economy, with U.S. consumer confidence rising last week to the highest level in more than five years, according to the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index.
The index climbed to -27 for the week ended July 28--the best reading since January 2008. It was -27.3 a week earlier (Bloomberg.com and Moody's Economy.com Aug. 1).
Consumers' sentiment has improved because of sustained labor market progress and escalating residential property values. That could trigger more consumer spending in the second half of the year, Bloomberg said.
As economic growth continues and gasoline prices recede from four-month highs, households are looking beyond rising borrowing costs, the index shows, said Bloomberg.
Increased hiring and improved wages--which have been a substantial challenge in the current business cycle--are the keys to ongoing improvement in the labor market and economy, said Joseph Brusuelas, a senior economist at Bloomberg LP in New York.