US jobless claims fall, but trade deficit widens as exports drop

THE number of US workers filing claims for jobless aid fell modestly last week as the labour market recovery struggled for momentum, while a slip in exports in April supported views of moderate economic growth.

The reports yesterday were the latest in a series hinting the economic recovery was losing some steam but remained intact following the worst downturn in seven decades.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dipped 3,000 to 456,000 last week, the Labor Department said. Economists had expected a drop to 448,000.

Meanwhile, a report from the Commerce Department yesterday showed the US trade deficit edged up to $40.3bn in April from $40bn from March as exports fell. Markets had expected a gap of $41bn. The slightly wider trade deficit reflected a 0.7 per cent drop in exports in April after a surge in March. Imports dipped 0.4 per cent. The politically sensitive trade gap with China widened 14.3 per cent in April to $19.3bn.

Analysts said the exports fall was unrelated to the debt crisis in Europe, and predicted limited impact from Eurozone austerity measures.