Unemployment Applications Drop to a 4-Year Low

Unemployment applications drop to a 4-year lowWASHINGTON (AP) - The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell to the lowest point in almost four years last week, the latest signal that the job market is steadily improving.

Weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the fourth drop in five weeks and the fewest number of claims since March 2008 - six months before Lehman Brothers collapsed and only a few months into the Great Recession.

The four-week average, which smooths out fluctuations in the weekly data, fell for the fifth straight week to 365,250. The average has fallen nearly 13 percent in the past year.

The consistent decline indicates that companies are laying off fewer workers, and hiring is likely picking up further. When applications drop consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

Jeremy Lawson, a senior economist at BNP Paribas, said the report points to solid hiring this month, similar to the average net gain of about 200,000 in the past three months.

"Most indicators are pointing in the same direction: a healthy job market," Lawson said. The additional jobs will provide more income for consumers and support greater spending, an importance source of growth.

In January, the economy added a net 243,000 jobs, the most in nine months. And the unemployment rate dropped for the fifth straight month, to 8.3 percent. The economy has added an average of 201,000 jobs per month for the past three months.

Faster economic growth is spurring the additional hiring. 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 in the previous quarter.

Most economists expect growth to slow in the current quarter, because companies won't need to rebuild their stockpiles of goods as much as they did last winter.

But there are signs that the economy is still expanding at a healthy rate. Factory output got off to a robust start this year, and it ended 2011 with the fastest growth in five years, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.

Factories are adding jobs to keep up with higher demand. Manufacturers added 50,000 jobs last month, the most in a year.

In addition, retail sales rebounded last month after a sluggish holiday season. The gain suggests that the recent job growth is supporting more consumer spending.

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 still painfully high.

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

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41 Comments

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ha6ai

Thanks Obama!

February 21 2012 at 2:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ha6ai

Running out of workers to fire?

February 21 2012 at 2:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
prlapo

Sorry about the multiple posts, this site kept prompting me to try again because of some difficulties and then they all popped up

February 20 2012 at 11:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
prlapo

When the housing market collapsed in Southwest Florida the skilled trades took a horrific beating. Large numbers of workers were laid off. Many of these people lost their jobs permanently. Others found that when they could find work it was only on the subcontractor basis that I described. So yes you are right, no one was physically forced to work this way, but if you wanted to work and feed your family this is what you were stuck with. The company I worked for went from about 100 employees to maybe 10. Believe me the few of us left had no choice but to accept whatever terms we were offered.

February 20 2012 at 11:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
prlapo

This number reflects only the people who are eligible to receive unemployment benefits. I personally know several people working in construction who were forced to work as subcontractors over the last few years. Hourly wages with no benefits and no employer contributions to unemployment compensation. Once this work dries up they are not able to get unemployment. I wonder how many are in this boat nationwide?

February 20 2012 at 6:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to prlapo's comment
bggdg

Who "forced" these people you know to work as subcontractors? It's not legal in the US to FORCE anybody to work against their will.

February 20 2012 at 9:15 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
5 replies to bggdg's comment
Harry and Linda

It is too late to save the idiots. It is far batter to save the good people. 1.6 million fewer jobs today than when Obama took office. Hide from the truth. Socialism is a failed concept. Don't believe it go live in Greece, Turkey or Venezuela for a while.
I would rather idiot waldo went along with all of his friends. How long do you think they would last in a solialist country. They don' reward ignorance.

February 20 2012 at 4:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
savemyidiotwaldo

More evidence that the economy is slowly rebounding under the centrist policies of Obama, despite the drooling right's attempts to destroy it. Let's flush the right wing garbage out of Congress this November and put an Congress in that will push Obama to do a more aggressive job of fixing the mess that three decades of fraudulent right wing economic policies have created.

February 20 2012 at 11:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to savemyidiotwaldo's comment
bggdg

I wondered what had happened to the useful idiots who haven't been posting much lately.

Now we know!

February 20 2012 at 9:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Rita

of course they are. THERE'S NO FRIGIN JOB"S!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! another lie to hide the real truth. there ALL liar"s, all these poititions. if it wasent for adding more weeks on to everyones unemployment insurance and social assistance there be riots in the streets, crime would go threw the roof. what are you going to do when you cant feed your family.DONT EVER THINK IT CANT HAPPEN TO U!!!!!!!

February 17 2012 at 6:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Rita's comment
bggdg

Extending unemployment benefits provides an incentive to remain unemployed, and a disincentive to employment.

Asa such, it is a contributing factor to higher rates of unemployment.

February 18 2012 at 1:40 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
8 replies to bggdg's comment
savemyidiotwaldo

There are no jobs because the fraudulent GOP economic policies that have dominated this country for the past 30 years have created an unholy mess. Restore progressive taxation, support strong unions, flush the GOP out of Congress and back into the sewer whence it came. Send Obama into his second term with a Congress that will revitalize the country. Put Scott Walker and his ilk in the unemployment lines, and this country can rise again from the GOP cesspool.

February 20 2012 at 11:37 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Rita

of course they are. THERE'S NO FRIGIN JOB"S!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! another lie to hide the real truth. there ALL liar"s, all these poititions. if it wasent for adding more weeks on to everyones unemployment insurance and social assistance there be riots in the streets, crime would go threw the roof. what are you going to do when you cant feed your family.DONT EVER THINK IT CANT HAPPEN TO U!!!!!!!

February 17 2012 at 6:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Rita's comment
rgkarasiewicz

Better to collect unemployment rather than work one's tail off for peanuts.

February 19 2012 at 12:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rgkarasiewicz's comment
wfreeberg

Get 2 low paying jobs and get off the dole. Have you no pride? Many of us are getting tired of you crying and collecting our tax dollar.

February 20 2012 at 4:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
cpo1514

Of course the rate is low..... they all are getting checks as Czars from OhMama!!!!!!

February 17 2012 at 2:09 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply