Ahead of the Bell: US Unemployment Benefits

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Economists surveyed by FactSet predict that fewer people sought jobless benefits in the week just passed.

The number had been rising in the past month and a drop in applications would ease concerns that hiring is slowing.

Economists forecast that weekly applications declined 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 380,000.

The Labor Department will release the official report this morning.

When applications fall below 375,000, it generally suggests hiring will be strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

Some economists say temporary layoffs stemming from the spring holidays may have inflated unemployment benefit applications last month.

Today's data will be closely watched because it comes one day ahead of the government's report on April hiring. Analysts expect that to be unchanged at 8.2 percent.