Weekly Jobless Claims Drop, 4-Week Average Lowest Since 2000

Unemployment Benefits
Wilfredo Lee/AP
By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON -- The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, in the latest sign of tightening labor market conditions.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 278,000 for the week ended Nov. 1, the Labor Department said Thursday.The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 2,250 to 279,000, the lowest reading since April 2000.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dropping to 285,000 last week. Claims have now been below the 300,000 threshold for eight straight weeks, suggesting that employment growth was gaining momentum.

A report Wednesday showed private payrolls increased 230,000 in October, for a record seven straight months of job gains exceeding 200,000.

The government is expected to report on Friday that nonfarm payrolls advanced 231,000 last month after rising 248,000 in September, according to a Reuters survey of economists. The jobless rate is seen steady at a six-year low of 5.9 percent.

A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing last week's claims data.

The Federal Reserve last month gave an upbeat view of the labor market, dropping its characterization of labor market slack as "significant" and replacing it with "gradually diminishing."

The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid declined 39,000 to 2.35 million in the week ended Oct. 25, the lowest level since December 2000. The unemployment rate for people receiving jobless benefits was at 1.8 percent for an eighth straight week.
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