WASHINGTON – The risk of losing your job is getting smaller and smaller.
As the U.S. economy has improved and employers have regained confidence, companies steadily have been shedding fewer workers. Which is why applications for unemployment benefits have dwindled to their lowest level since February 2006 – nearly two years before the Great Recession began – the government said Thursday.
The trend means greater job security and suggests a critical turning point in the economic recovery. It raises the hope that workers’ pay will finally accelerate after grinding through a sluggish recovery for the past half-decade.
When the economy sank into recession at the end of 2007, employers cut deeply into their staffs. And then during the recovery, they hired only hesitantly. Instead, they sought to maximize the productivity of their existing employees.
But in recent months, the picture has brightened. Employers have added 200,000-plus jobs for five straight months, and the unemployment rate has reached 6.1 percent, the lowest since 2008.
Now, the steadily declining level of layoffs suggests that employers may have to hire even more aggressively and raise pay if they want to expand their businesses, said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisers.
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits plunged last week to a seasonally adjusted 284,000, a low last achieved in February 2006. And after accounting for U.S. population growth, the number of people applying for unemployment aid has reached its lowest point since 1999.
The four-week average of applications, which smooths out week-to-week fluctuations, has dropped to 302,000 from 348,500 when the year began.
Employers added a net 288,000 jobs in June, capping the first five-month stretch of gains above 200,000 since 1999.