New claims for unemployment benefits fell for the second week running last week, government data the U.S. Labor Department said on July 16. First-time claims for unemployment insurance benefits fell to 522,000 in the week ended July 11.
That was better than the average consensus forecast of 565,000 and well below the revised 569,000 for the preceding week.
The Labor Department, however, cautioned that the weekly data had been skewed for a second week by timing of layoffs in the automotive sector. "This big drop is not an indication of what's going on economically, it's more an issue with the seasonal factor," a department statistician said. "What is unusual here is the timing of the layoffs in the automotive sector and other manufacturing sectors."
Ailing automakers General Motors and Chrysler, which have recently emerged from bankruptcy, closed plants as part of their restructuring.
The layoffs occurred earlier than the normal summer plant shutdowns that the department had factored into its seasonally adjusted data.
On a four-week moving average, the Labor Department said new claims fell to 584,500, down 22,500 from the prior week's revised average of 607,000.
In the week ended July 4, the insured unemployment rate fell to 4.7%, a half-point decline from the prior week's revised rate of 5.2%.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009