Fewer Americans filed first-time applications for unemployment benefits last week as the seasonal volatility at the start of the quarter wound down.
Jobless claims decreased by 23,000 to 369,000 in the week ended Oct. 20 from a revised 392,000 the prior period, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 48 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a drop in claims to 370,000.
Averaged over several weeks, the pace of firings has been little changed, indicating payroll gains are being restrained by a lack of hiring. The data signals employers are seeing enough demand to maintain existing staffing levels even amid growing concern about a slowing global economy and the looming fiscal cliff of tax increases and government spending cuts that will take effect in 2013.
â€œIn the immediate term, weâ€™re likely to be in a holding pattern because of the fiscal cliff,â€ Millan Mulraine, a senior U.S. strategist at TD Securities in New York, said before todayâ€™s report. â€œI would think some of that uncertainty would dissipate and be consistent with improving jobs prospects.â€
Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 350,000 to 382,000. The Labor Department revised the previous weekâ€™s figure up from an initially reported 388,000.
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