- Obama encourages ICE to stand down, say former border agents
- Pro-Palestinian protesters attack Israeli soccer team in Austria match
- Virginia police: 2 dead after storm at campground
- Ukrainian prime minister announces resignation
- House members question $17 billion VA request
- N.Y. Gov. Cuomo launches statewide task force to collect LGBT data
- Obama’s motorcade prevents woman in labor from crossing street to hospital
- Grijalva: Anti-trafficking law ‘line in the sand for many of us’
- Joe Biden: ‘Businesses are hiring at historic rates’
- Jeb Bush to Congress: Don’t use border crisis as excuse to delay immigration reform
Unemployment-aid applications fall to 340,000
Question of the Day
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell 23,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 340,000, a level consistent with solid job growth.
The less volatile four-week average ticked down just 500 to 339,500, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s close to the five-year low of 338,000 reached during the first week of May. The four-week average is 9 percent lower than in November.
“The underlying story in jobless claims continues to be one of gradual improvement,” Bricklin Dwyer, an economist at BNP Paribas, wrote in a research report.
Unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs. The decline in claims has coincided with steady job growth over the past six months. Since November, employers have added an average 208,000 jobs a month. That figure is up from just 138,000 jobs a month during the previous six months.
Still, much of the improvement has come from fewer layoffs, not robust hiring. Employers laid off just 1.7 million workers in March, only slightly above the 12-year low reached in January. Overall hiring, however, remains far below pre-recession levels.
More than 4.7 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits the week that ended May 4, down 23 percent from nearly 6.2 million a year earlier.
The United States still has 2.6 million fewer jobs than it did when the recession began in December 2007. The unemployment has fallen to a four-year low of 7.5 percent, down from 10 percent in October 2009. Some of the decrease is due to many people having given up looking for work. The government counts people as unemployed only if they are actively searching for a job.
For hiring to strengthen enough to lower the unemployment rate to a more normal level of between 5.5 percent and 6 percent, companies must gain more confidence in the economy. But some may be hesitant to add workers because of concerns of deep federal spending cuts and tax increases.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told a congressional committee Wednesday that the job market is improving but that higher taxes and government spending cuts likely will slow economic growth this year.
Mr. Bernanke said it was too early for the Fed to abandon its extraordinary efforts to boost economic growth. The Fed says it plans to keep its short-term interest rates near zero until unemployment is below 6.5 percent. And it is buying $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bonds to push down longer-term interest rates.
The Fed’s low-interest-rate policies are intended to encourage more borrowing and spending, which boosts economic growth.
TWT Video Picks
The subsidies are a hit with patients who don't exist
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- Obama's empty tough-talk: Gun prosecutions plummet on his watch
- Algerian plane diverted due to storms, second aircraft: 116 missing
- Obama dispatches researchers to border to check on National Guard
- Whistleblowers flood VA with lawsuits despite apology
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- Conservative groups decry Democrats' 'war on women' tactic
- Obama says public not familiar enough with issues
- Astronaut shares 'saddest photo' from space: Bombs bursting over Israel, Gaza
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq