US jobless claims fall to 17-month low

The number of newly-laid off US residents has fallen to the lowest level in a year and a half. The Labor Department reports new unemployment claims totaled 432,000 last week, down 22,000 from the previous week.

That is the lowest figure since July, 2008, and a significant reduction from the nearly 700,000 jobs that were being lost each week during the worst stretch of the economic recession in early 2009.

Global Insight economist Nigel Gault commented that he thought unemployment is easing. “The trend is clear. It is well established now, and the [unemployment] trend is down. We are now roughly in the zone which is consistent with the economy just beginning to add jobs,” he said, as quoted by Voice of America.

Not only are new job losses down, but the total number of people receiving unemployment benefits has also dropped by 57,000. If the trend continues, the number of jobs created will outpace job losses, and US unemployment, which stands at a 26-year high of ten percent, will decline, according to Gault.

“We can look forward to 2010 with a lot more confidence that some of those jobs are going to come back,” Gault said. “They are not all going to come back quickly and maybe some of them will never come back. But we are going to start creating jobs.”

The federal government will issue its next unemployment reading next week.

The improved unemployment numbers follow reports of a boost in US consumer confidence and indications that retailers fared better during the economically-critical holiday shopping season than had been anticipated.

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