More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign that the labor market is taking time to improve.
Jobless claims fell by 1,000 to 388,000 in the week ended April 21 from a revised 389,000 the prior period that was the highest since early January, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 48 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a drop to 375,000.
People wait in line to attend a job fair in New York, on April 12, 2012. Photographer: Justin Lane/EPA/Landov
Fewer layoffs are needed to lay the groundwork for more hiring, which in turn should support consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy. Federal Reserve policy makers yesterday said that while labor-market conditions have improved, the unemployment rate "remains elevated," helping explain why they stuck to a plan to hold borrowing costs close to zero through 2014.
"It's just so hard for companies to be confident and start hiring," said Yelena Shulyatyeva, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York, who correctly projected the level of jobless claims. "We believe that March is probably not the end of the modest readings on payrolls."
Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 355,000 to 390,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week's figure from 386,000. Claims in the week ended April 14 were the highest since Jan. 7.