Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Labor Department said on Thursday that new applications for unemployment benefits in the week ending Dec. 8 dropped by 29,000 to seasonally adjusted 343,000, which is the second lowest level this year.
The data means that the number of people on unemployment benefits has declined for the fourth consecutive week, though it may be due to some dropping out of the labor force altogether. According to a Bloomberg survey, the median forecast stood at 369,000 claims.
As more complete data from the state level is collected, initial claims from two weeks ago saw an upward revision to 372,000 from the prior reading of 370,000. Claims have dropped below pre-Sandy levels and reached their near four-year lows.
The Federal Reserve announced on Wednesday that it will keep policy rates low to encourage more hiring until the unemployment rate falls from the current 7.7 per cent to 6.5 percent.
Following the announcement, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told reporters that the prevailing job market conditions is a huge waste of human and economic potential.
Over the past month, the average of new claims has dropped to 381,500, down by 27,000. The four-week average is a more accurate barometer of the job market trends since it reduces the seasonal volatility present in the weekly data.
In separate reports, the Commerce Department also said that wholesale prices declined and retail sales increased in November. The agency noted the 0.3 per cent jump in purchases as a result of strong spending in automobiles, clothes and electronics.