The number of new jobless claims and the total number of people receiving unemployment benefits both dropped more than expected last week, though they remain at elevated levels and are unlikely to fall substantially in the coming months. Few economists expect a turnaround in the battered labor market anytime soon with companies laying off thousands of workers weekly. Still, the tally of initial requests for unemployment benefits fell to 639,000 from the previous week’s figure of 670,000, the Labor Department said today. Analysts expected a smaller drop to 650,000.
In separate reports, factory orders fell for a record sixth consecutive month in January, the Commerce Department said, as demand fell across a wide cross-section of industries. And worker productivity fell more steeply than previously estimated in the fourth quarter, the Labor Department said.