The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits surged by 68,000 for the week ending December 7, reaching a year high of 368,000. It is expected that the surge is due to adjustment difficulties after Thanksgiving but could signal troubling news if it continues. The U.S. Department of Labor has reported that the four-week average rose by 6,000 to reach 328,750, close to pre-recession levels and a positive sign for job gains. Previously, applications had fallen to near six-year lows due partly to that late Thanksgiving holiday.
A subsequent drop in layoffs has coincided with a hiring pickup as the economy added an average of 204,000 jobs per month from August through November. This is up from the average from May through July of 146,000 jobs per month. November saw employers add 203,000 jobs as the unemployment rate dropped to a five-year low of 7 percent. Incomes and consumer spending should increase throughout 2014 as more Americans work but the unemployment rate still remains high due to improving, but sluggish, hiring.
During the last full week of November, over 3.8 million people collected unemployment benefits though 1.25 million could soon lose them if the special federal program for long-term unemployment is not extended beyond its current expiration date of December 28. This program extends aid beyond the typical six-month period to include an additional 28 weeks. The loss of the additional benefits would affect up to 2.1 million workers who could lose their assistance by March 2014.