Jobless Claims Steady, Suggesting Hiring Could Pick Up

unemployment aid applicationsBy Christopher S. Rugaber

WASHINGTON -- The number of people seeking unemployment benefits was unchanged last week, suggesting steady gains in the job market.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly unemployment aid applications stayed at a seasonally adjusted 370,000, the same level as the previous week. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell for the second straight week, to 375,000. Applications for benefits surged in April to a five-month high of 392,000. They have fallen back since then and are near the lowest levels in four years.

The decline suggests hiring could pick up in May after slumping in the previous two months. When applications drop below 375,000 a week, it generally suggests that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

The unemployment rate has fallen from 9.1 percent in August to 8.1 percent last month. And employers have added a million jobs over the past five months.

The pace of hiring slowed sharply in March and April, to an average of 135,000 jobs per month. That raised fears that the job market is weakening.

But economists have cautioned that a warm winter led companies to move up some hiring and accelerate other activity that normally wouldn't occur until spring. That gave the appearance that the economy had strengthened in January and February and weakened in early spring.

And temporary layoffs stemming from spring holidays likely pushed unemployment benefit applications higher in April, economists noted.

If applications stay where they are or fall further, job growth should pick up. The gains may not match those from earlier in the year, when the economy averaged 252,000 jobs per month from December through February. But several economists said they expect somewhere in the range of 150,000 to 200,000 new jobs each month.

A jump in job openings supports the notion of stronger hiring in the coming months. Employers advertised 3.74 million job openings in March, the most since July 2008. It usually takes one to three months for employers to fill openings.

Other signs suggest the economy is strengthening after its early spring lull.

Home construction rose near a three-year high in April. And factory output has risen in three of the year's first four months.

The gains, highlighted in data released Wednesday, suggest growth in the April-June quarter is off to a good start.

Consumers are also finally seeing some relief from high gas prices. The average price of a gallon of gas was $3.73 on Wednesday, according to AAA. That's 18 cents less than a month ago.

So consumers should have more money for other purchases, which could also boost second-quarter growth and help lift hiring. Consumer spending drives roughly 70 percent of economic activity in the U.S.

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In any event BHOzo must go.

May 20 2012 at 4:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The headline said, Hiring Picking Up in May? Only for sanitary workers. Time to stop cooking the books.

May 20 2012 at 4:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Could pick up? if my Aunt had balls she could be my Uncle.

May 20 2012 at 3:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Eventually the rest of you will be out of the workforce with the other 88+ million hows that feel?That's right "Bingo" but no free spot.

May 20 2012 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The data trail says it isn't getting better just the numbers have been moved around to confuse the people.

May 20 2012 at 12:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

At least the Teamsters got the J1's to protest last year so count on that again when the companies try to over work them like slaves this summer.

May 20 2012 at 12:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The data crunchers are counting the J1 and other imported seasonal job displacers while Citizens are tossed out of the picture all together.

May 20 2012 at 12:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Look at the other down years we had it's signals were going down before we had a chance to go up!

May 20 2012 at 12:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The economy in the USA has been down so long it's going to run into the standard downward movement at the end of each decade or begining of the next! remember 81-82, 91-92, and 01-02? Is 11-12 after this 08-09-10 even forgotten? Read the data were not even recovered yet were due to dump again.

May 20 2012 at 12:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why do the republicans say they have the answer to fix the economy. They promised jobs when they won the majority in the house. What jobs have they created? They never wanted the economy to improve. The past two republican administrations prior to this one both left office with the economy in a free fall and a democratic administration came in to fix the mess they left behind. In less than four years now the republicans want us to trust them on something that they have a poor record on and thats creating jobs.

May 20 2012 at 12:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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