Jobless Claims Drop for Third Straight Week

October 23, 2003 ( - In a sign that the US employment picture may finally be beginning to stabilize, the number of Americans filing for first-time jobless benefits fell last week for the third consecutive time.

The US Department of Labor (DoL) said there were 386,000 claims for the week ending October 18, down 4,000 from the previous week’s revised 390,000. It was the also the third consecutive time that the jobless total was below 400,000 – a widely accepted dividing line between a healthy job market and a slumbering one (See Jobless Claims Down Again).

The general trend in the government jobless reports has been going down as claims have fallen 15,000 since mid-September.

The closely watched four-week moving average was unchanged in the October 18 week at 392,250. Economists view the average as a more reliable indicator for jobless trends because it irons out short-term volatility.

In a sign the pace of layoffs has eased, the number of people who have already claimed a week of benefits fell to its lowest in six months. The so-called continuing claims fell 84,000 to 3.54 million, the lowest since a matching level in the week ended April 5.

The October 18 figures were in line with expectations of 385,000 from economists participating in Reuters’ regular poll.