Economic Forecasts

Jobless Claims Down Slightly for the Week

First-time applications for unemployment insurance declined once again.

The number of first-time filers for unemployment benefits continued to decline last week, the Department of Labor reported Thursday. The number of newly unemployed workers for the week ended April 8 came to 234,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 234,000 to 235,000. The 4-week moving average was 247,250, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week's revised average. Weekly initial jobless claims are tracking at levels last seen in 1973, according to the Federal Reserve.

The latest news on the employment front follows last week's disappointing monthly jobs report. Only 98,000 net jobs were added in March, largely as a result of an East Coast blizzard during the survey period. Also, some construction hires came earlier this year, given abnormally warm weather in January and February. Average monthly job gains for the first quarter of 2017: 178,000, not too far from Kiplinger's forecast of 175,000, on average, for the full year.

The unemployment rate dropped to 4.5% in March. This is the lowest since 2007, when it hit 4.4%. The rate will likely end 2017 at 4.5%, but next year it should head down more, nearing 4%, by Kiplinger's estimates.

In other signs of labor market tightening: The number of long-term unemployed individuals declined, along with the number of people working part-time who want to work full-time. The unemployed and underemployed together totaled 8.9% of the labor force. That’s still above the 2007 low of 8.0%, but a far cry from the peak of 17.1% in early 2010.

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