June 18 (Bloomberg) -- The number of Americans receiving claims for unemployment benefits dropped for the first time since January, adding to evidence the job market is starting to thaw.
The number of people collecting unemployment insurance plunged by 148,000 in the week to June 6, the most since November 2001, to 6.69 million, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Initial claims rose by 3,000 to 608,000 in the week ended June 13, in line with forecasts.
The average number of claims over the last four weeks fell to the lowest level in four months, an indication that the U.S. economy is stabilizing after the worst recession in half a century. Even so, companies are likely to be slow to hire new employees, sending unemployment rates higher, analysts said.
“The labor market remains weak but it’s starting to stabilize,” said Maxwell Clarke, chief U.S. economist at IDEAglobal in New York. “An improvement in employment conditions and improvement in confidence go hand in hand with an improvement in consumer spending.”