WASHINGTON and CHICAGO (1/10/14)--A pair of reports released Thursday indicate that the job market improved significantly just at the start of 2014.
Initial jobless claims for the week ending Jan. 4 fell by 15,000 to 330,000, according to the U.S. Labor Department, while layoffs in December declined to 30,263, a one-month decline of 32%, according to a survey conducted by the Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The Labor Department report, which reveals the lowest number of initial claims since late November, is the latest to report a string of positive developments for the job market. Since the week that ended Dec. 14, initial filings have dropped by 50,000. The four-week moving average fell the week ending Jan 4. by 9,750 to 349,000, showing steady gains throughout the volatile and statistically unreliable holiday season.
The number of people claiming extended benefits rose by 115 to 292 for the week ending Dec. 21--a figure has fallen by over 700 on an annual basis. A measure of first-time claims not adjusted on a seasonal basis rose for the week ending Jan. 4 by 34,384, but was down by 12.9% on a year-over-year basis (Economy.com Jan. 9).
Signs of trouble do persist, however. Continuing claims rose by 50,000 to 2.865 million for the week ending Dec. 28. The four-week moving average of continuing claims rose to 2.872 million from 2.853 million. Roughly 1.29 million Americans were also on extended federal benefits for the week ending Dec. 21. The program, enacted in 2008, was wound-up on Dec. 31 after Congress failed to appropriate funds for it. Democrats are attempting to restore the payments, but Republicans are insisting that the estimated $26 billion cost must be offset first (MarketWatch Jan 9).
Both Moody's and MarketWatch said that the labor market should continue to strengthen this year, with reports indicating that employers are both adding and planning to add more personnel to payrolls. Moody's said that diminished uncertainty over the federal budget will also boost prospects for job-seekers. It expects the Labor Market to report Friday that 235,000 additional jobs were added to the economy in December, while Marketwatch is predicting a more modest increase of 193,000. Moody's added that the economy is on pace to reach full employment by 2017.