For the week ending March 1, fewer Americans filed claims for unemployment benefits indicating companies are maintaining staff levels despite the effects of colder than average weather. Claims fell by 26,000 to 323,000 for that week, the fewest since the end of November 2013. Falling numbers of job claims could signal improved hiring, which would increase consumer spending and improve consumer confidence. The number is better than those projected by economists surveyed by Bloomberg who had called for a median 336,000 claims.
A separate report has shown that worker productivity slowed during Q4 2013 as output per hour rose at an annual 1.8 percent. This is less than the estimated 3.2 percent gain predicted for the period. Labor costs related to productivity gains also fell by 0.1 percent after a 2.1 percent decrease in Q3 2013. Overall 2013 expenses rose 1.1 percent, the smallest gain since 2010 when they declined 1.2 percent.
The economy added 146,000 jobs in February after adding 113,000 jobs in January. The number of people receiving unemployment benefits declined by 8,000 to 2.91 million in February. The number of claims fell in 36 states and increased in nine states while the unemployment rate among workers eligible for benefits sat at 2.2 percent.