THE number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance fell to the lowest level since July 2008 last week, showing further strength in the American labour market after the jobless rate declined to a 21-month low.
Applications for jobless benefits decreased by 36,000, more than forecast, to 383,000 in the week ended February 4, US Labour Department figures showed yesterday.
Economists forecast claims would fall to 410,000, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey.
The total number of people receiving unemployment insurance fell, while those collecting extended payments increased.
A slowdown in firings means US companies may begin creating enough jobs to keep unemployment going down after the rate's biggest two-month decline since 1958.
US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S Bernanke yesterday said the jobless rate would likely stay high "for some time" as companies remain reluctant to add to payrolls.
"The labour market is improving," said Brian Jones, an economist at Societe Generale in New York, who projected claims would drop to 385,000. "Fingers crossed, if the weather can hold off this week, we should get a pretty decent snap back in non-farm payrolls and maybe another drop in the jobless rate."
Futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index expiring next month fell 0.5pc to 1,312.80 at 8:34am in New York.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to price, rose to 3.68pc from 3.65pc late on Wednesday. (Bloomberg)