More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week and consumer confidence declined by the most in a year, signaling that a cooling labor market may restrain household spending.
Jobless claims fell to 388,000 from a revised 389,000 the prior week that was the highest since early January, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index declined to minus 35.8 from minus 31.4 the previous week.
“There has been some slowdown in the labor market,” said Yelena Shulyatyeva, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York, who correctly projected the level of jobless claims. “That makes consumers feel less confident, and makes them more cautious about their spending. We could see some weakness in April payrolls.”
Fewer firings are needed to lay the groundwork for more hiring and support consumer demand, which makes up 70 percent of the economy. Another report today showed that signed contracts to buy homes rose more than forecast in March, more evidence of a stabilizing housing market that may boost confidence. Read more......