NEW YORK The number of workers filing new claims for jobless benefits unexpectedly fell by 21,000 last week, Labor Department data showed on Thursday, but stayed at levels in line with a shrinking labor market and economy.
KEY POINTS: * Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 509,000 in the week ended November 29 from an upwardly revised 530,000 the previous week. * A Labor Department official said there were no special factors influencing the report. * Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 537,000 new claims versus a previously reported count of 529,000 the week before. * The four-week moving average of new jobless claims, a better gauge of underlying labor trends because it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose to 524,500 from 518,250 the week before, the highest since the week of December 18, 1982, when a reading of 554,500 was recorded. * Continuing claims jumped to 4.087 million in the week ended November 22, the latest data available, from 3.998 million the prior week.
ROBERT MACINTOSH, CHIEF ECONOMIST, EATON VANCE CORP,
"You got to look at continuing and the four-week moving average, and those have both gone up. We're at a high level to begin with. The consensus is looking for a pretty deep recession... The bar's been lowered as far as economic activity, and this is still consistent with we're in a recession and it's going to be a while.
"What I'm talking about as far as the extent of this recession, I think we're going to be closer to that recession (early 1980s) than the others we've had in the meantime.
"There are going to be a lot more (layoffs) and we can barely see the tip of the iceberg. You overlay that with the fact, theoretically companies are running leaner, didn't over hire people like they have in previous economic cycles. The fact we're seeing these layoffs now tells you that it must pretty darn tight out there, for orders and sales."
ROBERT BRUSCA, CHIEF ECONOMIST, FACT AND OPINION ECONOMICS, NEW
"We've been hard by the auto front. The service sector has also been hit. The labor market is deteriorating and we are going to lose a lot of jobs for a while longer. Continued claims is a disturbing number."
FRANK LESH, FUTURES ANALYST, BROKER, FUTUREPATH TRADING,
"Well the jobless data was a little better than expected, but the reaction is muted because we have the monthly coming out tomorrow. We had a drop in the weekly claims, and I guess anything helps. But continuing claims of about 4 million doesn't look so good.
"With AT&T's and DuPont's job cuts and Merck's profit warning, there's not a lot of news out there that inspires buying today."
KEVIN FLANAGAN, FIXED INCOME STRATEGIST, GLOBAL WEALTH
MANAGEMENT, MORGAN STANLEY, PURCHASE, NEW YORK:
"You are seeing a little bit of a pullback in Treasuries prices from the highs. The reaction was not so much to jobless claims but is more some profit taking after the European Central Bank and Bank of England moves were more aggressive than thought.
"Bottom line: this is going to be a deep recession and we continue to see moves from global central banks."
BORIS SCHLOSSBERG, DIRECTOR, CURRENCY RESEARCH, GFT FOREX, NEW
"The top line number was modestly positive in that it was 21,000 less than the market expected. But the continuing claims are still a big drag, though I don't think they'll have too much impact on the market today because we've been so badly battered by all this bad news that each piece of data is losing its punch. For currencies, as everyone moves toward zero interest rate policies, risk currencies are losing ability to rally when equities rally."
MICHELLE MEYER, ECONOMIST, BARCLAYS CAPITAL, NEW YORK:
"The weekly figure came in below consensus, but claims are still very elevated. It's consistent that we are going to see more layoffs as the economy continues to weaken. Clearly we are expecting a very weak payroll report tomorrow. We are looking for non-farm payrolls to decline by 350,000 in November and for unemployment rate to rise to 5.8 percent."
MARKET REACTION: STOCKS: U.S. equity index futures hold losses after jobless claims data. BONDS: U.S. Treasury debt prices hold gains. DOLLAR: Dollar holds gains versus euro.