Dec. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Fewer Americans than anticipated filed claims for unemployment benefits last week, pointing to an improvement in the labor market that will help sustain economic growth next year.
Initial jobless claims fell by 22,000 to 432,000 in the week ended Dec. 26, the lowest level since July 2008, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The number of people receiving unemployment insurance fell in the prior week to 4.98 million, and those receiving extended benefits jumped.
Companies are retaining staff as sales improve and production picks up. Gains in consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy, may encourage more hiring in coming months, helping to bolster the rebound from the worst recession since the 1930s.
“It’s boding well for outright job growth,” said Stephen Gallagher, chief U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, who forecast claims would drop to 430,000. “It seems that some of the layoffs that took place in the early part of the year were excessive.”