Jobless Claims Fall Last Week

Washington, DC, October 19, 2006--Weekly jobless claims fell to their lowest level in almost three months, the federal government said Thursday. First-time applications for state unemployment benefits fell 10,000 to 299,000 in the week ended Oct. 14, the Labor Department said. The four-week average of new claims, considered a more accurate indicator, also fell, dropping by 5,750 to 307,750, the lowest since June 24. Initial claims figures bucked expectations. Economists were expecting initial claims to rise slightly to 310,000. Initial claims for the week ended Oct, 7 were revised to a rise of 5,000 to 309,000, up slightly from the initial estimate of a 4,000 rise to 308,000. Initial claims have been quite steady since July, with the four-week average holding in a 310,000 to 320,000 range. The recent low level of jobless claims, which indicates a tight labor market, has caused some economists to question how weak the U.S. economy will be in the second half of the year. The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate held at 1.9% for the week ended Oct. 7. The number of Americans continuing to collect unemployment benefits rose by 25,000 to 2.45 million. This is the highest level since the week ended Sept. 2. The four-week moving average of continuing claims barely changed, rising by 250 to 2.44 million. Initial claims represent job destruction, while the level of continuing claims indicates how hard or easy it is for displaced workers to find new jobs.