Jobless claims hint at firming job market conditions

Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:06am EST
 
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By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, offering hope that the sluggish labor market recovery may have picked up a step.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 341,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week's claims figure was revised to show 2,000 more applications received than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected claims to fall to 360,000.

"This is consistent with the good news coming out of the employment market, signs that things are getting better," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

The dollar rose against the yen, while prices for U.S. Treasury debt fell after the data.

A Labor Department analyst said claims for Illinois and snowstorm-hit Connecticut had been estimated. Nevertheless, because most claims are filed online, the blizzard that slammed the East Coast appeared to have little effect on the broader claims data, he said.

While companies are no longer aggressively laying off workers, they still appear to be in no hurry to step-up hiring against the backdrop of still lackluster demand.

The economy has struggled to grow much more than 2 percent since the 2007-09 recession ended.   Continued...

 
A job seeker (R) meets with a prospective employer at a career fair in New York City, October 24, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar