U.S. weekly jobless claims fall; producer prices weak

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week as employers continued to hold on to their workers, but the coronavirus pandemic is expected to lead to an increase in layoffs as companies battle supply chain disruptions and sagging demand for some goods and services. FILE PHOTO: X model…

U.S. weekly jobless claims fall; producer prices weak

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week as employers continued to hold on to their workers, but the coronavirus pandemic is expected to lead to an increase in layoffs as companies battle supply chain disruptions and sagging demand for some goods and services. FILE PHOTO: X model SUVs being built on the assembly line are seen at the BMW manufacturing facility in Greer, South Carolina, U.S. November 4, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller/File PhotoSome businesses are already cutting jobs and demand is weakening, at least at the factory level. Other reports on Thursday showed companies announced more than 600 layoffs through March 12 tied to the outbreak, while producer prices fell by the most in five years in February as prices for energy products and services such as hotel accommodation, shipping and air travel dropped. Financial markets are expecting the Federal Reserve will aggressively cut interest rates again at its policy meeting next week to counter the coronavirus, which investors fear is the catalyst that will derail the longest economic expansion on record, now in its 11th year. “It’s just a matter of time before the fallout from the coronavirus starts to show up in increased layoff activity,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics in New York. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 211,000 for the week ended March 7, the Labor Department said. Jobless claims are the most timely labor market indicator. They have declined for two straight weeks. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 218,000 in the latest week. The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 1,250 to 214,000 last week. Unadjusted claims for Washington state, hardest hit by the virus, which causes a respiratory disease called COVID-19, rose modestly last week. The World Health Organization on Wednesday termed the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. The virus with flu
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