(Bloomberg News) First-time claims for jobless benefits fell last week to a one-month low, helping allay concern that the labor market may suffer an extended setback.
Jobless claims dropped by 1,000 to 367,000 in the period ended May 5, in line with the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey and the lowest since the end of March, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls was the smallest since July 2008.
The data indicate the surge in claims in the first three weeks of April was probably tied to the timing of the Easter holiday rather than a deterioration in employment. Further declines in dismissals would point to ongoing improvement in the job market, helping sustain household purchases after payrolls cooled last month.
The figures are "consistent with decent job growth but certainly not blockbuster," said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. "We're seeing nice, steady job growth but not what we'd like to see given the number of jobs we lost during the recession."
The latest week's figure compares with an average of 373,000 claims since the end of February.
The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 368,000 applications last week. Estimates ranged from 345,000 to 380,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week's figure from 365,000.
Stocks rose as Greece attempted to form a new government to try and remain in the euro area. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index climbed 0.8 percent to 1,364.88 at 9:55 a.m. in New York.
Also today, consumer confidence dropped last week to the lowest level since early February as weaker job growth contributed to growing pessimism about U.S. household finances.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell in the week ended May 6 to minus 40.4, a level associated with recessions or their aftermaths, from minus 37.6 in the previous period. The gauge has declined for three straight weeks and given back more than half its gain from the end of 2011 through mid-April.