New applications for U.S. unemployment benefits fell for the third straight week, but they still haven't fallen to quite the same level that prevailed before the superstorm Sandy smashed into the Northeast in late October.
Initial jobless claims sank by 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000 in the week ended Dec. 1, the Labor Department said Thursday. Claims from two weeks ago were revised upward to 395,000 from an initial read of 393,000.
Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast claims to fall to 375,000 as the effects of Hurricane Sandy fade.
In premarket trades, the improved claims data helped reduce losses in stock futures.
The claims data came out one day before the government reports how many new U.S. jobs were created in November. On Friday, Labor is expected to that 80,000 net jobs were added last month, down sharply from 171,000 in October, the MarketWatch survey shows.
Economists say Sandy likely was a big drag on the labor market.
Applications for new jobless benefits had briefly soared to an 18-month high of 451,000 in mid-November before reversing course. Thousands of people who lost jobs or were temporarily unable to work because of the storm didn't file claims immediately.
Yet claims have still not fallen all the way back to pre-Sandy levels in the low 360,000s. If it takes much longer to get back to those levels, it might be a sign that hiring in the U.S. has softened again.
Source: Market Watch | Jeffry Bartash