Fewer People Apply for Unemployment Benefits

Slightly fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, the second drop in three weeks. That's a sign the job market is slowly healing.

The number of people seeking benefits edged down by 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 420,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Weekly unemployment applications at around 425,000 signal modest job growth. But economists say applications would need to dip consistently to 375,000 or below to indicate a significant decline in unemployment. Weekly applications peaked during the recession at 651,000 in March 2009.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose slightly to 426,000. The average had fallen for six straight weeks to the lowest level in more than two years.

Weekly applications are a real-time snapshot of the job market. If they continue to move down, hiring is more likely to pick up. Applications reflect the level of layoffs but can also indicate whether companies are willing to add workers.

The recent decline in the number of people seeking benefits has encouraged economists. Applications have fallen by more than 20,000 in the past month. That should translate into more hiring in December than the previous month, according to most economists. The economy added a net total of only 39,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent.

In addition, fewer people are receiving unemployment benefits. The total unemployment benefits rolls dropped by 103,000 to little more than 4 million in the week ending Dec. 11, the department said.

That doesn't include millions of additional laid-off workers who are receiving emergency aid under extended unemployment benefits programs set up during the recession. About 4.7 million people are receiving extended benefits for up to 99 weeks. All told, about 8.9 million people obtained unemployment benefits during the week of Dec. 4, the latest data available. That was about 150,000 fewer people than the previous week.

The economy is expected to pick up next year as consumers spend more freely. But growth probably won't be fast enough to rapidly reduce unemployment. Most Americans will have more cash to spend because of a cut in Social Security taxes, which was approved by Congress earlier this month.

Many analysts are predicting that the economy will grow at a 3.5 percent to 4 percent annual pace next year. That would be up from an expected 2.8 percent pace this year.

Still, by one estimate, the economy needs to grow by 5 percent for a full year to bring down the unemployment rate by one percentage point. Many economists expect the unemployment rate to be near 9 percent by the end of next year.


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bill griffis

misleading number economists do not want us to know the real numbers they porobalbly do not have clue what are the real numbers.

December 23 2010 at 7:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hi Peg and Matt

A fourth grader read the statement that the number of people filing new unemployment claims is an improvement, he then read that there are millions of workers without jobs.Next year in the fifth grade he will be taught why this is good for our country.

December 23 2010 at 6:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Maureen

That 8.9 million also does NOT include the 99ers - 5 million Americans who have been out of work for two years already but have dropped off the unemployment rolls because they've exhausted all 99 weeks (and sometimes less, as some states did not offer emergency extensions), but still cannot find a job.

How about doing a story on them? How about a survey of 99ers ages? I can guarantee you will find that the majority of 99ers are over 40, and many over 50. Why? Because age discrimination in hiring has become an epidemic. Basically, if you aren't under 35, unskilled and poorly educated, they don't want you because they think you're either going to cost too much in medical benefits or expect to be paid what your intellect and experience are actually worth.

December 23 2010 at 4:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Maureen's comment
bill griffis

people in over 40, 50 and 60 is SOL on fineing job anymore u are doom to become 99er. because of ur age. and the federalcourts all this to go on
Twelve warehousemen alleged age discrimination because they were replaced by younger workers. The case was dismissed because "the relevant similarly situated workers are not the workers' replacements but the five warehousemen . . . who were under 40. . . the young workers were treated exactly like the older workers - all were let go."

(Grimm v. Alro Steel Corp.,7th Cir.)

courts alow this to go one

December 23 2010 at 7:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wahoofishing2

What the hell ! We're running out of people to lay off.

December 23 2010 at 2:38 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
sgentilejr

Unless we all buy more Made in the USA items and less Imported items___we cannot create jobs.
Example: Did you know that Colgate and UltraBrite toothpaste are now made in Mexico??? Hell no___you did not know because you do not bother to look.
You could buy a toothpaste made here and help us, instead of helping Mexico create jobs. But if you don't look you will never know what is and what is not made here.

December 23 2010 at 12:38 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
graham13431

You folks continue to keep getting these numbers wrong every week. The 420,000 number is not the final total. That number will increase as usual before next weeks number is announced. Last weeks number increased from the initially announced 420,000 to 423,000 giving the "appearance" of a drop of 3000 to 420,000 this week. When this number is adjusted upward by the time next weeks number is announced, you will again be off by whatever the upward adjustment number turns out to be. This "false" number reporting has been going on for months on end now. It's long past time to start reporting these numbers correctly.

December 23 2010 at 10:58 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
danielorevae

The problem with these and like figures, does not take into account the number of people that have fallen off the unemployment roles due to using up all their benefits. I'd like to know the real numbers, although that would be hard to provide.

December 23 2010 at 10:15 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to danielorevae's comment
wfreeberg

I can't understand how anyone can use up all their UE benefits. Even if you only make minimum at McDonalds and Walmart one could work two jobs for a year or two to get by. Many of us have done it trying to put kids through college, and that's 4 - 6 years depending on your number of kids. I'm coming to believe many of these UE people would rather collect Benefits/Welfare than work and that is why we are going to be buried by foreign competition.

December 23 2010 at 3:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply