With applications data distorted for the second straight week due to backlogged claims from California and Nevada, the official report from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that applications for unemployment benefits fell by 15,000 to 358,000 last week. The government shutdown is known to have contributed to the number of applicants. The four-week average rose by 11,750 to 335,500.
Over the past two weeks, a combination of data distortions from two states and the shutdown resulted in a decrease in jobless claims. Before these two events, claims were at pre-recession levels indicating that companies were laying off few workers. For the week ending September 28, approximately 3.9 million Americans received benefits, about 83,000 fewer than the previous week and well over one million less than one year ago.
Three weeks ago, applications fell to a six-year low, though data from that period was also distorted due to reporting delays from California and Nevada caused by down time for computer upgrades. Though accelerated hiring typically follows a fall in applications, there is currently no evidence that this is the case. The recently ended government shut down has also delayed the reporting of government data and will affect hiring and economic growth for Q4 2013.