Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Business
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Applications for US unemployment benefits fall to 319,000, a sign of steady job market

In this April 22, 2014 photo, Bryan Preston of Hannaford supermarkets, left, talks with job seekers during a job fair at Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson, N.Y. The Labor Department reports the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week on Thursday, May 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Enlarge Image

In this April 22, 2014 photo, Bryan Preston of Hannaford supermarkets, left, talks with job seekers during a job fair at Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson, N.Y. The Labor Department reports the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week on Thursday, May 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

WASHINGTON - The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 26,000 last week to 319,000, the latest sign that the job market is slowly improving.

The drop follows two weeks of increases that reflected mostly temporary layoffs around the Easter holiday. The holiday can cause an uptick in layoffs of bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other school workers during spring break. Those earlier increases caused the four-week average of applications, a less volatile number, to rise 4,500 to a seasonally adjusted 324,750.

With the impact of the holiday fading, applications are returning to pre-recession levels. The average fell in early April to 312,000, the fewest since October 2007. The recession officially began in December 2007.

"Through the volatility, the data remain encouraging," said Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

The four-week average of applications is down from an average of 343,000 for all of last year, O'Sullivan noted. That is "consistent with the pick-up in employment growth" that's taken place this year, he added. Monthly job gains have averaged 214,000 from January through April, up from 194,000 in 2013.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, and so the decline suggests that companies are cutting fewer jobs. That trend is typically followed by more hiring, though the relationship is not always exact.

About 2.69 million people are receiving benefits, 76,000 fewer than in the previous week. That figure has fallen nearly 11 per cent in the past year. An additional 1.3 million people lost benefits when an emergency program that had provided up to 47 extra weeks of aid expired at the end of 2013.

Employers have stepped up hiring in recent months. The economy gained 288,000 jobs in April, the most in 2 1/2 years, the government said last week.

In addition, the unemployment rate plunged to 6.3 per cent from 6.7 per cent. But that drop occurred because fewer people looked for work. The government doesn't count people as unemployed unless they are actively searching.

The improved hiring should help boost economic growth for the rest of this year.

The economy barely expanded in the first three months of the year, growing at an annual rate of just 0.1 per cent. That was largely because a brutal winter kept consumers away from shopping malls, shut down factories and discouraged home and car sales.

But many signs suggest that the economy has rebounded since then as the weather has warmed. Most analysts estimate that the economy is growing at a healthy annual pace of about 3.5 per cent in the current April-June quarter.

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Sudden Surge: Flood of 2014
Opportunity Magazine — The Bakken
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media

Canadian Mortgage Rates