Unemployment Aid Applications Near a 4-Year Low

Unemployment aid applications near a 4-year lowWASHINGTON (AP) - The number of people seeking unemployment aid neared a four-year low last week, a positive sign that strong hiring could continue in the coming months.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 358,000. That's the second-lowest level since April 2008.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 366,250, the lowest since late April 2008.

"The encouraging U.S. employment news continues," Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients. The "job market started February off on a sturdy footing."

When applications fall consistently below 375,000, it generally signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

Employers added a net gain of 243,000 jobs in January, the biggest gain in nine months. The unemployment rate fell for the fifth straight month to 8.3 percent, the lowest in nearly three years.

From November through January, the economy has added an average of 201,000 net jobs per month.

The increased hiring in part reflects faster economic growth. The economy expanded at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the final three months of last year - a full percentage point higher than the previous quarter.

Applications are also falling because companies are laying off fewer workers. A separate report from the Labor Department, released earlier this week, showed that job cuts have fallen below pre-recession levels. Layoffs dropped last year to the lowest annual total in the 10 years the government has tracked the data.

With job cuts low, even a modest increase in hiring results in net job gains.

The number of people receiving benefits edged up in the week ending Jan. 21, the latest data available. About 7.6 million people received unemployment aid that week, a slight increase from the previous week. That figure includes about 3.5 million people receiving extended unemployment benefits under an emergency program set up during the recession.

That program is set to expire at the end of this month, unless Congress agrees to extend it through the end of the year. Lawmakers are wrangling over how to pay for an extension of benefits and for an extension of a Social Security tax cut that is also set to expire at the end of this month.

Most economists expect growth will slow a bit in the January-March quarter, because companies won't need to rebuild their stockpiles of goods as much as they did in the winter.

But some economists are increasingly optimistic that the economy will steadily expand this year, given last month's unexpectedly large job gains and other positive signs.

U.S. manufacturing activity grew in January at the fastest pace in seven months. Americans are buying more cars and trucks. And consumers stepped up borrowing in November and December by the most in a decade, which could indicate they are growing more confident in the economy.

Still, the job market has a long way to go before it fully recovers from the damage of the Great Recession. Nearly 13 million people remain unemployed, and 8.3 percent unemployment is painfully high.

One reason the unemployment rate has fallen for five straight months is that many people have stopped looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively searching for a job.

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OMG stop the lies, its getting old already. Even the drunken bums on the corner who never read a book in their life know the loopholes on how they report such low fake numbers.

February 13 2012 at 11:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Fudge them numbers for NOBAMA......WE WONT GET FOOLED AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!GONE 2012

February 09 2012 at 7:26 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to joey's comment

Also, be very leery of the black helicopters!

February 09 2012 at 9:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Running out of jobs to lose and I am not encouraged by these numbers. We can set the ship right in November it will just take some courage and sacrifice. They held a application fair for city jobs in my community last week however they are not hiring nor do they plan to in the near future hows that for government at work???

February 09 2012 at 4:37 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Need work? Don't have ? Thank Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Bernake, Geithner, Corzine,

February 09 2012 at 2:42 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jdykbpl45's comment

Thank all the corrupted crony politicians for that matter.

February 09 2012 at 3:57 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Sorry but you folks got it wrong again. I keep saying this week after week but you folks are not listening. Are you deaf and dumb? Your weekly new unemployment applications (and you left out the word NEW in this weeks report) number will be REVISED UPWARD by 3000 to 5000 by the time next weeks report comes out. That is the number to compare with last weeks final number, not the preliminary number that you keep using each and every week including this week. If you can't report these weekly numbers correctly then please stop reporting them at all.

February 09 2012 at 1:03 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to graham13431's comment

Why will it be revised upward?

If I was you, I'd avoid any trips to Vegas, as well as playing the lottery, etc.

February 09 2012 at 1:25 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to bggdg's comment

Will be revised upward because Obamas man that keeps the news (Albert Spear) always understates the real numbers so it appears that "its not that bad" or as Albert would say... the numbers are better than expected.

February 09 2012 at 3:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

Then why have revisions more frequently been downward than upward?

Is it the the flying pigs again?:Or is the tooth fairy responsible this time?

February 09 2012 at 4:16 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down