Unemployment insurance applications fall to four-decade low

A U.S. Department of Labor report released Thursday showed that jobless claims remain at their lowest level since November 1973, as approximately 246,000 new applications for unemployment benefits were received the week ending Oct. 8.

This is now the 84th straight week that the number of new people applying for unemployment insurance has remained below 300,000, the longest streak since 1970.

Continuing jobless claims also decreased by 16,000 for the week ending Oct. 1 to 2.05 million, the lowest such number since June 2000. However, monthly employment growth has slowed by more than 50,000 jobs on average, year-over-year.

The four-week average of those claiming unemployment now stands at 249,250, also the lowest since the early 1970s.

“These numbers are really remarkable given that the labor force is obviously a lot bigger than it was in 1973,” said IHS Global Insight economist Patrick Newport. “They tell us of a relatively healthy labor market.”

According to a subsequent Labor report, U.S. import prices also increased in September, which should eventually help push domestic prices higher. The cost of imported goods decreased by 11.6 percent between September 2014 and September 2015, compared to only 1.1 percent in the past year.

The combination of an improving job market and higher prices could prompt the Federal Reserve to raise it overnight lending rate in December from the current .5 percent mark.

Despite the optimistic data, economists at investment banking firm Goldman Sachs Group Inc., predict that unemployment claims will increase by 10,000 for the week of Oct. 15 due to the devastation from Hurricane Matthew, which caused widespread flooding, power outages and wind damage in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

 

[Reuters] [Bloomberg]