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19th of October 2018

Economy



Amid scarce US labour, jobless claims hit new 48-year low

New US claims for jobless benefits fell last week to their lowest level in nearly 49 years as employers struggled to fill open positions, the government reported Thursday.

The new Labor Department figures for unemployment insurance were only the latest confirmation of the widespread scarcity of labor in the world's largest economy -- a phenomenon that may be beginning to weigh on business investment.

For the week ending September 8, the number of new claims for jobless benefits fell 1,000 to 204,000, the lowest level since December of 1969.

The result undershot analyst expectations, which had instead called for a slight increase to 210,000.

Claims, which can see big swings from week to week but are a measure of the prevalence of layoffs, have held below the 300,000 level for more than three and a half years -- the longest such stretch ever recorded -- and appear poised to fall below 200,000 for the first time since 1969.

The trend could be interrupted by damage from Hurricane Florence, which is now barreling toward the southeastern US coast.

With unemployment at historic lows, companies are increasingly stretched to fill open positions, making them very reluctant to layoff workers they may be unable to replace.

The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that across half the United States some businesses say they are delaying or curtailing investment plans because they cannot find enough workers.

However, in many cases they have so far resisted pressure to raise wages.

Still, the persistently tight labor market could add to pressure on the Fed to raise interest rates, which it is expected to do at its next meeting later this month.

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