Initial claims for unemployment insurance have fallen to their lowest levels in about five years, a suggestion that the U.S. labor market is stabilizing -- even if the pace of job generation is not keeping pace with growth of the population.
Last week, initial claims fell to a seasonally adjusted figure of 303,000, some 13,000 fewer than the previous week's unrevised figure of 316,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported on Feb. 10. Economists generally expected initial jobless claims to increase to 329,000 last week; the number actually decreased and was 26,000 below the projection.
The department's four-week moving average for initial claims, which smooths out week-to-week shifts and tends to be a better indicator of underlying labor market conditions, also fell last week. The average was 315,500 claims, a decrease of 16,000 from the previous week's unrevised average of 331,500.