Jobless claims in U.S. decline to lowest level in a month

 A job seeker meets with recruiters during the HireLive Career Fair in San Francisco, California.
A job seeker meets with recruiters during the HireLive Career Fair in San Francisco, California. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Applications for unemployment benefits fell more than forecast last week as claims moved closer to a four- decade low that shows a resilient labour market.

First-time jobless claims dropped by 12,000 in the week ended Nov. 21 to 260,000, the fewest in a month, a Labor Department report showed Wednesday. The number of claims reached 255,000 in mid-July, the lowest since December 1973.

Companies are limiting dismissals as a tighter labour market has made it more difficult to attract and keep skilled labourers. Payrolls increased in October by the most in 10 months while the unemployment rate fell to a seven-year low, indicating robust employment that may persuade the Federal Reserve to raise its benchmark interest rate next month.

The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 44 economists projected 270,000 jobless claims, with estimates ranging from 260,000 to 282,000. The previous week's figures were revised to 272,000 from an initially reported 271,000.

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, held at 271,000.

While there was nothing unusual in the data, claims for Louisiana were estimated because the state was switching to a new system for handling applications, according to the Labor Department.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits increased to 2.21 million in the week ended Nov. 14 from 2.17 million. In that same period, the unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.6 per cent, the report showed. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

The data will help shape Fed policy makers' views of the labour market leading up to their December meeting, as they contemplate whether the economy is strong enough to withstand the first interest-rate increase since 2006.