Initial and Continuing Jobless Claims Drop

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Unemployment claimsInitial jobless claims continued their decline in the week ending April 31 by 7,000 to 444,000, the U.S. Labor Department announced Thursday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had expected a total of 445,000.

The less volatile four-week moving average also decreased, by 4,750 to 458,500, while continuing claims fell 59,000 to 4.59 million. A year ago, initial jobless claims totaled 604,000, the four-week moving average was at 617,250 and continuing claims totaled 6.23 million.

Also, states reported 5.35 million people claiming Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits for the week ending April 17, the latest week for which data are available. That's an increase of 153,786 from the prior week. A year ago, EUC claimants totaled 2.28 million .

Productivity Is on a Roll

Separately, U.S. worker productivity continued to increase impressively, rising at 3.6% annual rate in the first quarter of 2010, after annualized rates of 6.3% and 6.2% in the fourth and third quarters of 2009, respectively, the Labor Department said. Productivity has now increased 6.3% in the past 12 months -- the largest jump in 48 years.

Further, unit labor costs fell 1.6% in the first quarter of 2010, after 5.9% and 7.6% drops in the fourth and third quarters of 2009, respectively. In 2009, unit labor costs declined 1.9%. A Bloomberg News survey had expected first-quarter productivity to increase 2.6% and unit labor costs to fall 1%.

The largest increases by state in initial jobless claims for the week ending April 24, the latest week for which data is available, were in: California, 6,418; Massachusetts, 4,526; Oregon, 3,117; Kentucky, 1,800; and Louisiana. The largest decreases were in: Florida, -2,766; North Carolina, -2.650; New York, -2,601; Wisconsin, -2,522; and Georgia, -2,197.

This week's report offered good news nearly across the employment spectrum. Lastly, unit labor costs remained contained in the first quarter, which will help keep inflation low in 2010.
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