Claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly dropped last week to the lowest level in almost six years, signaling the U.S. job market continues to mend.
The number of applications for unemployment insurance payments declined by 15,000 to 320,000 in the week ended Aug. 10, the fewest since October 2007, from a revised 335,000, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 44 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 335,000. There was nothing unusual in the data and no states were estimated, a Labor Department spokesman said as the data was released to the press.
The slowdown in firings may be a precursor to a pickup in hiring, which would bolster household incomes and spending. Fewer dismissals are also helping boost consumer confidence as growth in the world’s largest economy shows signs of picking up in the second half of 2013.
“The labor market is improving,” said Brian Jones, a senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, who projected 322,000, the closest of all economists surveyed by Bloomberg. “We’ve got decent momentum on consumer spending” heading into the third quarter, he said.
Another Labor Department report today showed the consumer-price index increased 0.2 percent in July after a 0.5 percent gain the prior month. The advance matched the median forecast of 82 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The core measure, which excludes food and fuel, also climbed 0.2 percent from June.