Business

U.S. jobless claims drop to 5-month low

The battered United States economy received two small pieces of positive news Thursday as claims for unemployment benefits eased and second-quarter growth topped expectations.

Economy tops expectations for 2nd quarter

Krish Kilaru, left, and other job seekers speak with Gary Bach and pickup job applications at the University of Illinois Technology booth during a job fair on September 1 at the University of Illinois Springfield campus, in Springfield, Ill. (Seth Perlman/Associated Press)

The battered United States economy received two small pieces of positive news Thursday as claims for unemployment benefits eased and second-quarter growth topped expectations.

The Labour Department said weekly applications for benefits dropped by 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 391,000, the lowest figure since early April.

The four-week average, which is less volatile, eased for the first time in six weeks to 417,000.

Claims for benefits normally need to be below 375,000 — a figure not seen since February — to signal solid growth in hiring.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Commerce Department said economic growth for the second quarter came in at 1.3 per cent, an upward revision from an estimate of 1.0 per cent made one month ago.

The revised figure topped the 1.2 per cent growth that economists had projected.

The second-quarter figure was enough to lift U.S. economic growth for the first half of 2011 to just 0.9 cent — the softest performance since the previous recession ended two years ago.

Observers don't expect the United States to slide back into recession, but the forecast for growth for the rest of the year is not expected to be enough to lower the unemployment rate, which stood at 9.1 per cent in August.

With files from The Associated Press