Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits held below 300,000 for the seventh straight week, pointing to a rebound in payrolls after hiring eased last month.
Jobless claims increased by 1,000 to 295,000 in the week ended April 18, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast of 55 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 287,000. The figures correspond to the week the government surveys employers to calculate the monthly payroll data, indicating hiring probably firmed in April.
Muted firings are helping boost prospects of a healthy labor market even as employers slowed hiring in March amid weaker foreign demand, chillier temperatures and fallout from the West Coast port workers’ dispute. Projections for more robust employment growth ahead may keep Federal Reserve officials on course to raise the benchmark interest rate this year for the first time since 2006.
Claims are “reasonably low by historical standards, and consistent with a very healthy labor market,” Terry Sheehan, an economic analyst at Stone & McCarthy Research Associates in Princeton, New Jersey, said before the report. “Overall the labor market seems strong enough to be able to keep absorbing a little more slack.”
Estimates in the Bloomberg survey for jobless claims ranged from 280,000 to 305,000. The prior week’s reading was unrevised at 294,000.