Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, and consumer confidence approached a five-year high as the biggest part of the economy benefits from improving job and housing markets.
Jobless claims fell by 23,000 to 340,000 in the week ended May 18, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The weekly Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index (COMFCOMF) increased to minus 29.4 for the period ended May 19 from minus 30.2 the prior week.
Falling dismissals, rising home values and record stock prices are giving households the confidence to sustain spending, helping the economy weather federal budget cuts that are projected to curb the expansion. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke yesterday signaled policy makers will not reduce record stimulus until gains in employment are sustained.