Jobless Claims Lowest Since 2001

November 6, 2003 ( - Economists looking for evidence that the domestic job market was finally beginning to firm up had plenty of reason to smile Thursday with word of the lowest jobless claims totals in nearly two years.

According to the US Department of Labor (DoL), the number of Americans lining up for first-time unemployment benefits plummeted 43,000 to 348,000 from a revised 391,000 for the week ending November 1. That was the lowest claims level since the economy first plunged into recession in March 2001.

Economists participating in Reuters’ regular Wall Street survey had predicted a much more modest slip to 380,000.

The four-week average, which irons out short-term volatility, also fell a healthy 10,000 to 380,000 last weekfrom the previous week’s revised average of 390,000. The 380,000 mark wasits lowest level since March 2001.

Things were even looking sunny when it came to the number of workers forced to cling to the unemployment rolls. The DoL said the number of insured unemployment for the week ending October 25 was 3.51 million, down 22,000 from a revised 3.53 million.

Initial claims and the four-week average have been below 400,000 for more than a month. Economists see that level as the dividing line between an improving and slumbering labor market.

In terms of Friday’s October employment report, economists are looking for payrolls to rise 55,000 after a 57,000 gain in September. They expect the jobless rate to hold steady at 6.1%.