Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, pushing the average over the past month to the lowest level in 15 years and underscoring labor-market strength.
Jobless claims decreased by 1,000 to 264,000 in the seven days ended May 9, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast of 53 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected 273,000. The four-week average, a less- volatile measure, was the lowest since April 2000.
Fewer workers are being let go, a sign that demand for staffing remains robust and that a slowdown in economic growth was due to transitory factors, like bad weather and port disputes on the West Coast. Persistently low firings and greater employment gains should help wages pick up, supporting consumer spending.
“Labor-market conditions are quite firm,” said Raymond Stone, managing director at Stone & McCarthy Research Associates in Princeton, New Jersey. “Typically, when you have low claims you have strong payroll numbers.”
Another report from the Labor Department Thursday showed producer prices in the U.S. unexpectedly fell 0.4 percent in April from the prior month, depressed by declining profit margins at wholesalers and retailers.
Jobless claims estimates in the Bloomberg survey of economists ranged from 260,000 to 285,000. The prior week’s claims were unrevised at 265,000.
Stock-index futures held earlier gains after the reports. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in June rose 0.5 percent to 2,105.4 at 8:45 a.m. in New York.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits held at 2.23 in the week ended May 2.
In that same period, the unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.7 percent, where it’s been since mid-March, the report showed.