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Rose Zhou/MEDILL

Initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest level in five weeks, while the four-week moving average number remained fairly steady.

Jobless claims fall to five-week low

by Rose Zhou
Jan 16, 2014

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest level in five weeks, indicating that layoffs are less of a counter weight in the economy recovery.

For the week ended Jan. 11, the number of seasonally adjusted initial claims dropped to 326,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 328,000. But the weekly numbers can fluctuate widely and most economists focus on the less volatile four-week moving average of claims. That number dropped 13,500 to 335,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Howard Wial, the executive director of Center for Urban Economic Development at University of Illinois at Chicago said the trend shows that employers are not laying off more workers and economic recovery is proceeding. But more new jobs need to be created, he said.

The unadjusted initial claims for unemployment benefits for the week ended Jan. 4 dropped by 1,190 in Illinois.

Despite the fact that the number of people receiving unemployment has been declining at a steady rate since 2010, some labor economists argue that the need to bring back extended unemployment benefits is great.

More than 4.7 million Americans claimed benefits in the week ended Dec. 28, but the number is expected to drop by almost 1.4 million in the next weekly report because extended benefits expired Dec. 28.

On Tuesday the Senate dismissed a proposal to extend Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits for the unemployed who have exhausted regular state benefits.

“We’ve got 1.4 million people whose only lifeline to stability is their modest unemployment benefits,” said Robert Bruno, a labor economist at University of Illinois at Chicago. “And the economy continues to be dreadfully bad, so these benefits really are desperately needed.”