FILE - In this Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, file photo, retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Thomas Gipson, of Atlanta, right, has his resume looked over by Ralph Brown, a management and program analyst with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a job fair for veterans at the VFW Post 2681,Marietta, Ga. The Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
Thursday, December 05, 2013 8:41 am
US jobless claims plunge to 298k, as layoffs slow
By JOSH BOAKAP Economics Writer
The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average declined 10,750 to 322,250.
Last week's unemployment benefit applications nearly matched a September figure that was distorted by late reporting from California. When excluding the September report, last week's figures were the lowest since May 2007.
Applications have now fallen in seven of the past eight weeks, a hopeful sign for job growth at the end of the year.
Last week included the Thanksgiving holiday, which can present challenges for seasonal adjustments. But government officials say there were no special factors affecting the report.
Weekly jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs. The steady decline should help boost job gains at a time when hiring has accelerated.
The economy has added an average of 202,000 jobs a month from August through October, up from an average of 146,000 in May through July. The government issues its November employment report on Friday.
A report Wednesday from payroll processor ADP suggested the hiring gains continued last month. Companies and small businesses added 215,000 jobs in November, ADP said.
Greater employment typically boosts income, which helps drive more economic growth. Consumers' spending accounts for roughly 70 percent of economic activity.
Still, the unemployment rate remains high at 7.3 percent. That's well above the 5 percent to 6 percent unemployment rate consistent with healthier job markets. When unemployment is lower, workers have more flexibility to change jobs.
Job growth is a major factor for the Federal Reserve in deciding when to reduce its economic stimulus. The Fed has been buying $85 billion in bonds each month to keep long-term interest rates low and encourage borrowing and spending.