Unemployment Applications Lowest Since April '08

Unemployment applications lowest since April 2008WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of people applying for unemployment benefits dropped last week to its lowest level since April 2008, extending a downward trend that shows the job market strengthening.

First-time applications for unemployment benefits fell 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 364,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the third straight weekly drop.

The four-week moving average, a less volatile gauge, fell for the 11th time in 13 weeks. At 380,250, it's the lowest since June 2008. Applications generally must fall below 375,000 - consistently - before hiring is strong enough to reduce the unemployment rate.

Unemployment applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. Job cuts have fallen sharply since the recession, though many employers remain slow to start hiring.

The declining number of applications suggests that the economy may finally be regaining strength, 2½ years after the Great Recession ended. The nation added at least 100,000 jobs every month from July through November, the first five-month streak since 2006.

"When you fire fewer people, hiring unquestionably follows," said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG LLC.

If unemployment applications continue declining, Greenhaus said, the number of jobs created each month will rise to 200,000 and the unemployment rate might fall as low as 8 percent before November's elections.

In the past three months, employers have added an average of 143,000 net jobs a month. That compares with an average of 84,000 in the previous three months.

More small businesses plan to hire than at any time in three years, a trade group said last week. A separate private-sector survey found more companies are planning to add workers than at any time since 2008.

Overall economic growth appears to be tracking the job market's improvement. The economy was barely growing when the year started. In the final quarter, growth might exceed 3 percent, up from 2 percent in the July-September period.

Still, applications for unemployment benefits are above the level needed to lower the unemployment rate significantly. The four-week moving average for new claims has exceeded that number since June 2008. Unemployment has been above 8 percent for almost three years.

Before the recession, there generally were 280,000 to 350,000 new applications for unemployment benefits each week. The number peaked at 659,000 in March 2009.

The unemployment rate fell in November to 8.6 percent from 9 percent, but about half that decline occurred because many of the unemployed gave up looking for work. When people stop looking for a job, they're no longer counted as unemployed.

And weak hiring doesn't always appear in unemployment claims data. Employers slashed payrolls deeply during the recession. If they're worried about the slow pace of recovery, they may hold off layoffs - but not hire, either.

The figures come as Congress appears close to going home without extending emergency unemployment benefits, which are set to expire at the end of the year.

About 6.7 million people are receiving unemployment benefits. About 2.2 million of them will lose their benefits by mid-February and 3.6 million others will lose theirs by the end of March if Congress doesn't extend the emergency benefits.

Lawmakers are deadlocked over continuing the program, which is attached to legislation that would extend a Social Security tax cut.

House Republicans rejected a two-month extension passed by a bipartisan majority in the Senate. President Barack Obama has called on lawmakers to approve the short-term measure so that they will have time to negotiate a full-year extension.

If Congress doesn't renew the two measures for 2012, economists say, the economy's growth could slow by as much as 1 percentage point.

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Why work for others and get rape d by govt in taxes? I have a micro ranch and trade for other goods where I can. Not even sales tax that way. Time govt pukes got a real job and produced somthing instead of obstruction to economic activity, freaking leaches all of them! Got gold?

December 26 2011 at 11:20 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Fed res dollar printing has increased to keep up with US treasury's need for them as debt buyer of last resort. Euro is doing same for their debt but doesn't hold the luxury as world's res currency. Fed exports it's inflation to the world euro can't & WILL hypor inflate to ZERO. Europ will run to the dollar as others trade for gld/slvr. Even with small demand increase gld/slvr price rise outside the fed's ability to keep suprpressed & dollar will start its final fall, world WILL panic & gld/slvr will BE only reserve currency. World fiat monotary system is collapsing & we face deep depression. Got Gold? China & India does, why's that you figure?

December 25 2011 at 4:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

It's a great feeling to see the economy, and those around us, doing better, especially in the Holiday season.
OF course the Republicans are right there, trying to obstruct any good news, when they try to deny continuing unemployment benefits and continuing the reduction in payroll taxes.
Are they afraid they are going to lose the November election if things get better?

December 23 2011 at 7:42 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to georgetroll4's comment


Are they afraid they are going to lose the November election if things get better?
Well george,,,,,,,,,,,

it's unfortunate that you can't see that if the republicans lose in 2012 America loses for good....

December 23 2011 at 9:58 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mickylitz's comment

You mean their strategy is to make us lose (go down hill) now and trust them to make things better later.
Do you honestly think that makes sense?
If their strategy is to make things worse now (as it is), the same strategy will only make things "worser" when they have MORE time and power to implement it.

December 23 2011 at 10:46 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down

i can agree with the numbers, i just got two new full time good paying jobs after only being out of work for 2 months, economy can't be to bad if i can get two offers in two months time out of work lowest paying 16.88/hourly

December 23 2011 at 2:02 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

What happens to all of us who will lose their unemployment? We become homeless???

December 22 2011 at 9:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Thousands have exhausted their benifits. They are no longer counted as unemployed.

December 22 2011 at 5:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The two political parties will fight right through the next decade whilethe job market declines and older workers drop dead over worries of no jobs.

December 22 2011 at 5:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The stores are laughing while the taxpayer makes up for the low wages at the businesses

December 22 2011 at 5:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

How many temps for the holidays can pay their rent or earn enough to qualify for unemployment? The taxpayer saved nothing on Black Friday they have to pay out for all the assistance needed due to low wages!

December 22 2011 at 5:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I didn't apply because it ran out and they denied me any more. I want a job not a hand out anyways. Currently going through bankruptcy and losing my house.

December 22 2011 at 5:11 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply