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July 17, 2009

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Payroll trimming on horizon

THE number of newly laid-off Americans signing up for unemployment benefits last week and those using this safety net over a longer period both plunged. But the government figures released yesterday were clouded by difficulties adjusting for temporary shutdowns at auto plants.

Even if the recession ends this year, companies are expected to keep trimming payrolls. The unemployment rate will climb because companies won't be in any mood to hire until they feel certain a recovery is firmly rooted.

The Labor Department said new applications for unemployment insurance dropped by a seasonally adjusted 47,000 to 522,000, the lowest level since early January. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters expected claims to rise to around 575,000.

But a department analyst said the drop in new claims didn't point to improving economic conditions. It reflected problems adjusting layoffs for temporary shutdowns at General Motors and Chrysler plants to retool for new models.

The department's seasonal adjustment process expected a large increase in claims from auto workers and some other manufacturers, according to the analyst. Since that didn't happen, seasonally adjusted claims fell.


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