Dare we hope that Friday’s jobs report will show the backside of high unemployment? New government data Thursday showing jobless claims falling to a new four-year low suggest the dark days for American workers may be abating.
It may be too early to tell, but employment figures from the last few months are more chipper than they have been in years, with a stable 8.3% national unemployment rate.
And with first-time applications for unemployment benefits falling 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 357,000 last week – the lowest numbers since April 2008 – optimism for Friday’s official jobs numbers is rising.
Even the less-volatile four-week average for jobless claims is down to 361,750, another four-year bottom, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Another source, Chicago consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, found U.S. employers announced 8.8% fewer job cuts last month than they did a year earlier. The 10-month low of 37,880 planned layoffs are yet another indicator of job market improvement.
And at government agencies, worker reductions are down 86% year over year, though Challenger suggested the dip may be the result of an “eye of the storm” effect during an election year.
Telecommunications firms were hardest hit, with nearly half of the 4,089 announced cuts coming from T-Mobile’s effort to consolidate call centers. Many of the rest came from call center cuts from Verizon Wireless, Wells Fargo and television retailer QVC.
California had the most layoffs, with 3,904 in March.
But across the country, private companies in the U.S. added 209,000 workers in March in the 26th straight month of growth, according to Wednesday’s ADP National Employment Report.
The economic outlook recently has been generally hopeful. Several months ago, personal incomes made their highest month-to-month jump in nearly a year. Even with rising oil prices, consumer sentiment is at a nearly five-year high.
Fingers crossed for Friday!