By Timothy R. Homan and Shobhana Chandra on Bloomberg.com
April 22 (Bloomberg) — The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits fell last week as the rebounding economy prompted companies to make fewer job cuts.
Initial jobless applications dropped by 24,000 to 456,000 in the week ended April 17, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The number of people receiving unemployment insurance and those getting extended benefits also fell.
Employers enjoying improved sales and profits may be gaining confidence in the economy and retaining staff. A transition from less firing to consistent job growth will ensure the recovery from the deepest recession since the 1930s is sustained.
“The state of the job market is firming,” said John Herrmann, a senior fixed-income strategist at State Street Global Markets LLC in Boston, who forecast claims would fall to 458,000. Companies are “actually retaining headcount and growing.”
Economists anticipated claims would fall to 450,000 from a previously reported 484,000 the prior week, according to the median of 47 projections in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 430,000 to 480,000.
Stock-index futures maintained earlier losses after the report. Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring in June declined 0.7 percent to 1,192.30 at 9:14 a.m. in New York.
The Labor Department also reported a 0.7 percent rise in March producer prices, pushed up by the biggest gain in food costs since 1984. Excluding food and energy, wholesale prices rose 0.1 percent for a second month.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, a less volatile measure than the weekly figures, increased to 460,250 last week, from 457,500.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits decreased 40,000 in the week ended April 10 to 4.65 million. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.
The number of people who’ve used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments declined by 479,559 to 5.49 million in the week ended April 3.
The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits, which tends to track the jobless rate, dropped to 3.6 percent in the week ended April 10 from 3.7 percent.
Forty-two states and territories had an increase in claims for that same week, while 11 had a decrease.
Bernanke on Labor
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said last week that the labor market will be slow to recoup the number of jobs lost since the recession began in December 2007.
“Consumer spending should be aided by a gradual pickup in jobs and earnings, the recovery in household wealth from recent lows, and some improvement in credit availability,” the Fed chairman said in prepared testimony to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. Even so, “a significant amount of time will be required to restore the 8 1/2 million jobs that were lost during the past two years.”
Payrolls rose by 162,000 in March, the biggest gain in three years, the Labor Department reported April 2. The unemployment rate was 9.7 percent for a third month and has not increased since reaching a 26-year high of 10.1 percent in October.
Halliburton Co., the world’s second-largest oilfield contractor, added about 1,200 employees, or 2 percent of its workforce, in the first three months of 2010, mostly to meet growing demand for services in North America, spokeswoman Cathy Mann said on April 19.
The Houston-based company’s first workforce expansion since 2008 stemmed from onshore exploration that helped the company exceed analyst profit expectations.
Last Updated: April 22, 2010 09:27 EDT