More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign that the labor market is making progress in fits and starts.
Jobless claims in the week ended Nov. 9 declined 2,000 to 339,000 from a revised 341,000 the week before that was higher than initially reported, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The median forecast of 51 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a drop to 330,000. Applications for five states were estimated because of the Veterans Day holiday-shortened week, the Labor Department said.
Companies, already running lean after the recession, are trying to determine the optimum level for their workforces as political gridlock in Washington prevents lawmakers from reaching a compromise for this fiscal year’s budget. A pick-up in consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, is needed to help drive growth and boost hiring in the fourth quarter.
“Until we get beyond these political and fiscal uncertainties, we’re likely to see this stop-and-start that we’ve had in the labor market,” said Millan Mulraine, director of U.S. rates research at TD Securities USA LLC in New York, who predicted jobless claims would rise to 340,000. “Once we get beyond these issues, the labor market is likely to reflect a more buoyant economy.”
Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 325,000 to 350,000. The prior week’s claims were revised from an initial reading of 336,000.
Other reports to showed worker productivity grew less than forecast in the third quarter and the trade deficit climbed more than projected in September.