Jobless claims hover near 15-year low, boost growth outlook

Thu May 7, 2015 11:32am EDT
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By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits held near a 15-year low last week in a sign that the labor market was strengthening despite moderate economic growth.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000 for the week ended May 2, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That was well below the increase to 280,000 that economists had forecast.

Claims for the prior week were unrevised at 262,000, which was the lowest reading since April 2000. The sustained strength suggests March's sharp step down in job growth was likely an aberration, and could keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates this year.

"This provides support that March's weakness was temporary and it underpins expectations that nonfarm hiring will rebound in April and continue to post healthy rates of job growth in the coming months," said Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, hits its lowest level since May 2000.

The dollar firmed against a basket of currencies on the data. Stocks on Wall Street were trading higher and prices for U.S. Treasury debt rose.

Claims, which remained below the key 300,000 threshold for a ninth straight week, are one of the timely indicators of the health of the U.S. economy. At current levels, they suggest positive momentum in the economy, even though growth stumbled badly last quarter.

Last week's claims have no bearing on Friday's employment report for April as they fall outside the survey period for the data.   Continued...

Job seekers browse tables at a veterans' job fair in Burbank, Los Angeles, California March 19, 2015.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson