Applicants for U.S. Unemployment Benefits Drop

The new applications for the U.S. unemployment benefits went down last week. It is pointing to the sustained labor market strength amid sharp slowdown in job growth last month.

U.S. Flag Outside a Building

According to the Labor Department, the initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 9,000 to seasonally adjusted 233,000 last week.

Meanwhile, economists had forecast claims falling to 230,000 this week. Claims tend to be volatile around this time of the year due to different holidays, such as Easter. With this, it can throw off the model that the government uses to smooth the data for seasonal fluctuations.

Last month, the economy made 103,000 jobs, which is the fewest in the past six months.

The labor market, on the other hand, is considered almost full in employment. The rate of unemployment is at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, which is not far from Fed’s predictions of 3.8 percent by the end of 2018.

On Wednesday, minutes of the U.S. central bank policy meeting offered an upbeat assessment of the jobs market, stating that “most participants described labor market conditions as strong.”

It also highlighted the increasing labor shortages saying that “in some districts, reports from business contacts or evidence from surveys pointed to continuing shortages of workers in segments of the labor market.”

U.S. Import Prices Steady

The U.S. import prices in March are unexpectedly flat as a drop in the cost of petroleum products was offset by rises in the prices of food and other goods.

On Thursday, the Labor Department stated that last month’s unchanged reading followed a slightly downwardly revised 0.3 percent increase in February.

Meanwhile, the reading in March was the weakest since July last year.

Economist had forecast the import prices to increase 0.2 percent in March after a 0.4 percent increase last February.

For the past 12 months, the import prices have increased 3.6 percent. It is the biggest gain since April last year, after increasing 3.4 percent in February.

The prices for imported petroleum fell 1.3 percent in March, after dropping 0.8 percent the previous month.

Import prices, on the other hand, rose 0.1 percent last month after climbing 0.4 percent last February.

This year, prices have increased strongly reflecting the depreciation of dollar against the currencies of the U.S. main trading partners.

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