US jobless claims at 43-year low; import prices edge up

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WASHINGTON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits held at a 43-year low last week, pointing to sustained labor market strength that could pave the way for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in December.

Thursday's report from the Labor Department added to data such as September automobile sales and manufacturing and services sector surveys in reinforcing the view that economic growth picked up in the third quarter after a sluggish performance in the first half of the year.

SEE ALSO: Americans quitting their jobs en masse, says Bureau of Labor Statistics

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits were unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 246,000 for the week ended Oct. 8, the lowest reading since November 1973, the Labor Department said. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 3,000 fewer applications received than previously reported.

It was the 84th consecutive week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with robust labor market conditions. That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller.

RELATED: 12 jobs disappearing in the U.S.

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12 jobs disappearing in the US

12. Computer programmers

They write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly. Their jobs are at risk primarily because of global outsourcing.

Median annual pay: $80,000

US employment in 2014: 329,000

Projected US employment in 2024: 302,000

Projected decline: 27,000 (8%)

Photo credit: Getty 

11. Molding, coremaking, and casting machine setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

They set up or operate metal or plastic molding, casting, or coremaking machines to mold or cast metal or thermoplastic parts or products. Their jobs are at risk as companies switch to computer and robot-controlled machines.

Median annual pay: $29,000

US employment in 2014: 130,000

Projected US employment in 2024: 97,000

Projected decline: 32,000 (25%) 

Photo credit: Getty

10. Switchboard operators, including answering service

They operate telephone business systems equipment or switchboards to relay incoming, outgoing, and interoffice calls. Their jobs are at risk due to increased automation and online services.

Median annual pay: $27,000

US employment in 2014: 112,000

Projected US employment in 2024: 76,000

Projected decline: 37,000 (33%)

Photo credit: Getty

9. Cutting, punching, and press machine setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

They set up or operate machines to saw, cut, shear, notch, bend, or straighten metal or plastic materials. Their jobs are at risk as companies switch to computer and robot-controlled machines.

Median annual pay: $31,000

US employment in 2014: 192,000

Projected US employment in 2024: 153,000

Projected decline: 40,000 (21%)

Photo credit: Getty

8. Postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators

They prepare incoming and outgoing mail for distribution at post offices and mail processing centers. Their jobs are at risk due to automatic mail sorting technology and the switch to online services.

Median annual pay: $57,000

US employment in 2014: 118,000

Projected US employment in 2024: 78,000

Projected decline: 40,000 (34%)

Photo credit: Getty

7. Tellers

They are responsible for accurately processing routine transactions at a bank. Their jobs are at risk due to the rise of online banking and mobile apps.

Median annual pay: $26,000

US employment in 2014: 521,000

Projected US employment in 2024: 481,000

Projected decline: 40,000 (8%)

Photo credit: Getty

6. Sewing machine operators

They operate or tend sewing machines to join, reinforce, decorate, or perform related sewing operations in the manufacture of garment or nongarment products. Their jobs are at risk due to increased automation and outsourcing.

Median annual pay: $23,000

US employment in 2014: 154,000

Projected US employment in 2024: 112,000

Projected decline: 42,000 (27%) 

Photo credit: Getty

5. Farmworkers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse

They perform numerous tasks related to growing and harvesting grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other crops. Their jobs are at risk as farms consolidate and adopt technology that raises output per farmer.

Median annual pay: $20,000

US employment in 2014: 470,000

Projected US employment in 2024: 427,000

Projected decline: 43,000 (9%)

Photo credit: Getty

4. Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants

They perform clerical and administrative duties. Their jobs are at risk as technology automates or simplifies much of their work.

Median annual pay: $53,000

US employment in 2014: 777,000

Projected US employment in 2024: 732,000

Projected decline: 45,000 (6%)

Photo credit: Getty

3. Postal service mail carriers

They deliver mail to homes and businesses in cities, towns, and rural areas. Their jobs are at risk due to automated sorting technology and the switch to online services.

Median annual pay: $58,000

US employment in 2014: 297,000

Projected US employment in 2024: 219,000

Projected decline: 78,000 (26%)

Photo credit: Getty

2. Cooks, fast food

They prepare a limited selection of menu items in fast-food restaurants. Their jobs are at risk due to increased automation.

Median annual pay: $19,000

US employment in 2014: 524,000

Projected US employment in 2024: 444,000

Projected decline: 80,000 (15%)

Photo credit: Getty

1. Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks

They record financial transactions, update statements, and check financial records for accuracy. Their jobs are at risk because of technological changes that automate and otherwise simplify this work.

Median annual pay: $37,000

US employment in 2014: 1,760,000

Projected US employment in 2024: 1,612,000

Projected decline: 149,000 (8%)

Photo credit: Getty

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Minutes of the Fed's Sept. 20-21 policy meeting published on Wednesday showed several officials believed it would be appropriate to increase interest rates "relatively soon" if the economy continued to gain strength.

The U.S. central bank raised its benchmark overnight interest rate last December and has held it steady since, largely because of concerns over low inflation.

But there a signs that inflation will gradually rise toward the Fed's 2 percent target as the dollar's rally fades, which should ease some of the deflationary pressures from overseas.

In a second report, the Labor Department said import prices gained 0.1 percent last month after declining 0.2 percent in August. In the 12 months through September, import prices fell 1.1 percent, the smallest decrease since August 2014, after declining 2.2 percent in August.

The dollar trimmed losses against the yen after the data, while U.S. Treasuries pared gains.

Economists had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits rising to 254,000 in the latest week.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 3,500 to 249,250 last week, also the lowest level since November 1973.

While the pace of employment growth has slowed to a monthly average of 178,000 jobs so far this year after averaging 229,000 positions per month in 2015, it remains well above the roughly 100,000 that Fed Chair Janet Yellen says is needed to absorb new entrants in the job market.

Thursday's claims report also showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid declined 16,000 to 2.05 million in the week ended Oct. 1, the lowest level since June 2000.

The four-week average of the so-called continuing claims dropped 25,750 to 2.07 million. That was the lowest reading since July 2000.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)


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