APPLICATIONS FOR U.S. UNEMPLOYMENT RISE TO 293K

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits increased last week after falling sharply two weeks ago. Despite the rise, the level of applications remains near pre-recession levels, a sign that hiring will likely remain healthy.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications rose 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 293,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Yet the four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell for the second straight week to 298,500.

In Michigan, applications were down 2,473 due to fewer layoffs by wholesalers

The figures are “very low … close to all-time lows when measured as a share of payrolls,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a research note. “We expect robust job growth in the months ahead.”

Two weeks ago, applications had plummeted to 281,000, near a 14-year low first reached in July. Over the past year, the four-week average for applications has fallen 7.1 percent. They climbed above 650,000 during the recession in 2009.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Fewer applications indicate that employers are holding onto their workers, likely because they are more confident about the economy. It may also indicate they will boost hiring.

The total number of people receiving benefits ticked up by 7,000 to 2.4 million. A year ago, 3.9 million people were receiving unemployment aid. That number has fallen sharply partly because of the expiration of extended benefits, a program that ended at the beginning of this year.

Applications fell steadily through the summer. At the same time, job gains have been solid, despite a slowdown in hiring in August.

Employers added just 142,000 jobs last month, according to the Labor Department, down from an average of 212,000 in the preceding 12 months. It was the end of a six-month streak of monthly job gains in excess of 200,000. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent, but only because some of those out of work gave up looking. The government doesn’t count people as unemployed unless they are actively searching.

Still, most economists expect hiring will continue at a healthy pace this year. Surveys of both manufacturing and services firms show that companies in both sectors added workers in September.

How states fared on unemployment benefit claims

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid increased last week after falling sharply two weeks ago. Despite the rise, the level of applications remains near pre-recession levels, a sign hiring will remain healthy.

The Labor Department says weekly unemployment benefit applications rose 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 293,000. Yet the four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell for the second straight week to 298,500.

Here are the states with the biggest increases and decreases in applications. The data is for the week that ended Sept. 13, one week behind the national figures:

States with the biggest decreases:

Michigan: Down 2,473, due to fewer layoffs by wholesalers

New Jersey: Down 1,573, due to fewer layoffs in hotels, restaurants and construction

States with the biggest increases:

California: Up 5,269, no reason given

Missouri: Up 1,810, due to layoffs in manufacturing, retail and auto manufacturing

Oregon: Up 1,691, no reason given

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