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May 06, 2004

Jobless Claims Lowest Since 2000; Plunge to 315,000

400,000 per week is considered the break-point between a deteriorating and improving economy:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - America's employment outlook brightened on Thursday after the government said jobless claims dropped last week to their lowest since 2000, bolstering expectations for strong numbers in the April jobs report.

U.S. Treasury bond yields hit a two-year high on the unexpectedly rosy number and the dollar climbed 1 percent against the yen as markets bet heavily the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates this summer as the economy warms.

The picture of a better jobs climate was also backed by an unexpected increase in unit labor costs in the first quarter, alongside respectable productivity growth of 3.5 percent.

First-time claims for state unemployment benefits shrank 25,000 to 315,000 in the week ended May 1, the Labor Department said. It was the third straight week of declines.

Wall Street analysts had forecast a slight fall in claims to 335,000 from a revised 340,000 the previous week.

Grant Wilson, vice president of foreign exchange at Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh, said the jobless numbers were a good omen on the eve of the April employment report.

"We weren't expecting anything as (good) as this. It bodes well for the unemployment number tomorrow," Wilson said.

April non-farm payrolls are set for release at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT) on Friday and are forecast to show creation of 173,000 new jobs. That would be a marked moderation from March, when 308,000 were added, but still evidence that labor conditions are tightening.

So there's the estimate.


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posted by Ace at 06:39 PM

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