The United States initial jobless claims remained choppy for second straight week, falling more than expected last week, signaling a healthy labor market post a wrecked first quarter.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 268,000 for the week ended May 21, the US Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week remained unrevised. However, a Bloomberg poll of 49 economists projected a median forecast of 275,000 claims.
“As always, the labor market is rock solid,” said Stephen Stanley, Chief Economist, Amherst Pierpont Securities in a note to his clients.
The four-week moving average of claims, a less volatile measure than the weekly figures, increased to 278,500 from 275,750, Bloomberg reported.
However, declines in claiming unemployment benefits at the mid of the month indicate that the surge in jobless claims at the beginning of May was probably due to transitory events such as the spring break holiday at schools in New York and shutdown of auto plants in Michigan. That perhaps shows that employers are intent on retaining experienced workers amid firm demand prospects in the ongoing 2nd quarter.
At the state level, large declines in California, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Michigan offset increases in Tennessee, Oregon, Illinois, and Iowa. None of the state-level moves were especially notable. However, claims in New York continue to rise, largely, in part owing to the ongoing Verizon strike, leading to temporary lay-off of few workers.
“We continue to see the Verizon strike as negatively affecting employment growth. We expect an effect of -20k to -40k on May nonfarm payroll growth,” Barclays said in a research note.
Meanwhile, economists expect the 40,000-employees strike will hurt May payrolls because they would be considered unemployed as they would not have received a paycheck during the survey period. The government will release its closely watched employment report on June 3.