US jobless claims fall in March

City A.M. Reporter
The number of Americans claiming jobless benefits fell last week and factory employment in the US Midwest hit a 27-year high in March.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000 the Labor Department has said, before the government releases the more closely watched US payrolls data tomorrow.

Separately, the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago's employment index hit the highest level since December 1983, jumping to 65.6 in March from just under 60 the month before.

Its overall business barometer dipped to 70.6 from 71.2 in February but remained in expansion mode.

The government revised the claims series back to 2006 to account for new seasonal factors and showed slightly higher claims for recent prior weeks than previously estimated.

Still, the downward shift remained intact and economists said the revisions did not change their views that the labour market was firming.

"The trend is still clearly downwards. There is every reason to expect that to continue as the return of bank credit to small businesses allows them to hold onto people who might otherwise have been laid off," said Ian Shepherdson, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York.