WASHINGTON (MCT) — Initial jobless claims fell for the third straight week as furloughed federal employees returned to work and the effects of the government shutdown abated, the Labor Department said Thursday.
There were 340,000 people who filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, a drop of 10,000 from the previous week. Economists had projected the number would drop to 335,000.
The figure was down significantly from 373,000 claims in the week that ended Oct. 5, the highest level since January. The spike was caused by the furlough of about 800,000 federal workers on Oct. 1 after Congress and the White House failed to agree on a spending bill after the fiscal year ended.
The Pentagon recalled about 400,000 civilian employees the following week, and the rest of the workforce returned on Oct. 17.
Initial jobless claims have declined steadily in recent weeks as fewer federal workers applied for benefits. Just 14,423 federal employees filed claims in the week ending Oct. 19, the latest data available. The figure was down from 44,136 the previous week, the Labor Department said.
The four-week average of jobless claims, which smoothes out some of the volatility, remained elevated last week at 356,250, up 8,000 from the previous week.
The claims figures have been unusually volatile this fall because of the government shutdown and computer upgrade problems in California and Nevada in September.
Before that, claims had averaged about 330,000 a week during the late summer, the best performance since the end of the Great Recession and a sign of moderate job growth.
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