US applications for jobless aid likely rose last week; average still at pre-recession lows

Markets Associated Press

The U.S. Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. The report will be released Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.

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EDGING UP: Economists forecast that weekly applications rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 280,000, according to a survey by FactSet.

If the forecasts prove accurate, this would mark the ninth straight week of applications below 300,000. That level suggests that the steady gains in jobs this year should continue.

Applications for unemployment benefits are a proxy for layoffs and have tumbled 18.5 percent in the past year. The sharp drop-off indicates that employers have more confidence in the economy, making them more likely to hold onto their staff and possibly seek to hire more workers.

STRONGER HIRING: Falling layoffs have been matched by a substantial increase in hiring. Employers added 214,000 jobs last month as the unemployment rate slid to 5.8 percent from 5.9 percent, the Labor Department said last week.

Employers have added an average of 228,500 jobs a month in 2014, up from an average of 194,000 last year. Nearly as many new jobs have been created through the first 10 months of 2014 as in all of 2013.

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But the job gains have yet to push up wages much, limiting the broader growth of the U.S. economy. Average hourly pay rose 3 cents in October to $24.57. That's just 2 percent above the average wage 12 months earlier and barely ahead of a 1.7 percent inflation rate.