Claims for U.S. unemployment insurance payments fell last week, returning to levels seen in the second half of 2012.
Applications for jobless benefits dropped 5,000 to 366,000 in the week ended Feb. 2, Labor Department figures showed today. Economists forecast 360,000 claims, according to the median of 53 estimates in a Bloomberg survey.
Claims, after see-sawing in prior weeks as the government had trouble adjusting the data for seasonal swings, are settling at a level that signals there is little change in the pace of firings from last year. The data come after a report last week indicated employers are boosting payrolls at a faster pace as demand holds up.
“It could be better, but you’re still seeing improvement in other labor market data,” Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York, said before the report.
Stock-index futures remained little changed after the figures. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring in March fell less than 0.1 percent to 1,506.5 at 8:36 a.m. in New York.
Economists’ claims estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 343,000 to 370,000. The Labor Department revised the prior week’s reading to 371,000 from the initially reported 368,000.
A Labor Department official today said there was nothing unusual that affected today’s figures, and no states were estimated.
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