Thursday, November 03, 2011
New claims for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in five weeks, a hopeful sign for the still-weak job market.
Separately, U.S. workers' productivity rose in the third quarter for the first time this year as the economy picked up some speed and labor costs declined. Meanwhile, factory orders rose for the third consecutive month in September, an unexpected gain for a key sector of the economy.
Initial jobless claims fell by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 397,000 the week ended Oct. 29, the Labor Department said Thursday. In the prior week, jobless claims were revised up to 406,000 from an originally reported 402,000, according to the newly released figures.
The four-week moving average of new claims, a more reliable indicator of the labor market's performance because it smooths out volatile weekly figures, dropped by 2,000 to 404,500 last week.
It was the first time weekly jobless claims fell below 400,000 since the week ended Sep. 24. Most economists believe jobless claims must fall below that mark for the economy to add more jobs than it is shedding. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast claims for last week would fall by 2,000 to 400,000.
While new jobless claims have edged down two of the past three weeks, the improvement likely has been too small to reduce the unemployment rate.
The government's official tally of U.S. employment will be released Friday. Economists predict the rate will remain unchanged at 9.1%.
Read The Latest from The Wall Street Journal.