US jobless claims in late March fell below projections

Fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits at the end of March, suggesting a continually strengthening labor market in spite of slow economic growth.

Claims for unemployment benefits fell by 9,000 to 267,000 for the week ending April 2, according to a Labor Department report on Thursday, April 7. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected claims would hit 270,000, the publication reported.

Jobless claims have been below 300,000, a level economists associate with a healthy labor market, for the last 57 weeks, the longest stretch since 1973.

Employers also added 215,000 jobs in March, on top of the 245,000 positions created in February, the government reported last week. Evidence also suggests the job market is experiencing steady hiring and few job cuts, and that employers are holding onto their workers despite weak growth.

“Employers are not only retaining workers but also looking to hire more,” said Jacob Oubina, a senior US economist at RBC Capital Markets LLC in New York, who accurately estimated the claims, according to Bloomberg. “The job market remains healthy.”

Despite the decline in jobless claims, in the week that ended on March 26, the number of individuals who continued receiving jobless benefits increased by 19,000 to 2.19 million. Additionally, the four-week average of claims, a less-volatile figure compared to the weekly claims, rose to 266,750 last week from 263,250.

Data last week further showed that about 2.4 million people entered or re-entered the job market from September to March, marking the second-largest increase in the work force in a six-month period on record, Reuters reported.

Globally, Reuters reported that international trade growth has slumped to a figure below a 1 percent annual rate in the first quarter of the year, following a 1.4 percent rate of growth in the last quarter of 2015.

A Labor Department analyst said only Louisiana had been estimated in last week’s claims, and that no other special factors influenced the data.

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