WASHINGTON — Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign employers are holding the line on firings even as cold weather slowed industries from manufacturing to housing.
Jobless claims declined by 3,000 to 336,000 in the week ended Feb. 15, a Labor Department report showed Thursday. The median forecast of 53 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a decrease to 335,000. No states were estimated and there was nothing unusual in the data, a Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released.
A slowdown in dismissals could lay the groundwork for a pickup in hiring, and more jobs could translate to a boost in consumer spending. An improving job market would support a turnaround in an economy held back by harsh winter weather that has slowed retail sales, employment, and factory production.