US jobless claims fall to 5-year low of 324K
BY CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER | AP Economics Writer May 2, 2013 8:16AM
Updated: May 2, 2013 8:16AM
WASHINGTON — The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell last week to seasonally adjusted 324,000, the lowest since January 2008. The drop points to fewer layoffs and possibly more hiring.
The Labor Department says weekly applications fell 18,000, the second straight sharp drop. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, plummeted 16,000 to 342,250.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. But fewer job cuts are only one side of the equation: Companies also need to be confident enough to add workers for job growth to pick up and lower the unemployment rate.
Economists forecast that the economy added 160,000 jobs last month. That’s much better than the 88,000 added in March, but below last year’s pace of nearly 185,000 per month. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 7.6 percent.
The government will release the April employment report Friday.
Weekly applications at or below 350,000 are generally consistent with moderate hiring. But other reports have signaled a worsening jobs picture.
On Wednesday, payroll provider ADP said companies added just 119,000 jobs in April. And a survey of manufacturers by the Institute for Supply Management found that a measure of employment fell sharply last month.
Many companies have been advertising more jobs but have been slow to fill them. Job openings jumped 11 percent during the 12 months that ended in February, but the number of people hired declined, according to a Labor Department report last month.