The Recruiting News
US Jobs Market Sees Positive Signs
(January 10, 2012)
Fewer people sought new unemployment benefits in the U.S. last week, further signaling that the labor market began to stabilize as 2011 drew to a close.
Initial jobless claims fell by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000 in the week ended Dec. 31, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Last week was the eighth time in the past nine that new claims came in below the 400,000 mark, a positive sign as economists generally believe claims must remain consistently below that level to signal a real turnaround.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast claims would fall by 6,000 to 375,000. For the week ended Dec. 24, claims were revised up to 387,000 from an originally reported 381,000.
The four-week moving average of new jobless claims, which smoothes out volatile weekly figures, decreased last week by 3,250 to 373,250, the lowest level since June 7, 2008.
Among those adding jobs are discount retailer Dollar General (DG), which said this week that it will hire 1,300 in California to staff 50 new stores and a distribution center.
Even with the recent decline in those seeking new jobless benefits, unemployment remains well above historic norms.
On Friday the government will release the December unemployment rate, the broadest snapshot of the labor market. Economists forecast that the rate will tick up to 8.7% from 8.6% in November.
While fewer Americans are losing their jobs, work remains scarce in areas of the economy that suffered the largest job losses during the most recent downturn, said Joanie Ruge, chief employment analyst with staffing firm Randstad Holdings USA.
"Until we see more job creation in manufacturing and construction, the unemployment rate is likely to remain above 8%," she said ahead of Thursday's report.
The Federal Reserve predicts an unemployment rate in a range of 8.5% to 8.7% at the end of 2012. With inflation expected to come down this year, the central bank is considering additional efforts to prop up the economy to meet its mandate to keep unemployment in check.
Thursday's report showed the number of continuing unemployment benefit claims- -those drawn by workers for more than a week--decreased by 22,000 to 3,595,000 in the week ended Dec. 24. Continuing claims are reported with a one-week lag.
The unemployment rate for workers with unemployment insurance for the week ending Dec. 24 was 2.8%, compared with 2.9% the prior week.
The state-by-state breakdown in initial jobless claims, which is also released with a one-week lag, showed Georgia with the biggest decrease in initial claims, down 1,105 as there were fewer layoffs in the construction, service and manufacturing industries.
California saw the biggest jump in claims the week ended Dec. 24, up by 16,490 due to layoffs in the service sector.
A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual about the latest state-level claims data.
The Labor Department report on jobless claims can be accessed at: http:// www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/eta/ui/current.htm
-By Eric Morath and Luca Di Leo; Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9279; eric.morath @ dowjones.com
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