Home prices fell a record 1.7 percent in the first quarter and the number of workers on jobless benefit rolls held at a four-year high, underscoring the economy’s woes, data on Thursday showed.
The continued slump in housing prices in the first quarter pushed them 3.1 percent below their year-ago level, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said. Like the quarter-to-quarter drop, the decline was the biggest in the 17 years the housing regulator has tracked the data.
OFHEO said prices fell 0.4 percent in March from February and are now down 3.7 percent from their April 2007 peak. Other home price measures have shown even steeper declines.
A separate report from the Labor Department showed first-time claims for state unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell 9,000 last week to 365,000.
However, the number of workers still on the benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of aid held at 3.073 million in the week ended May 10, the latest for which figures were available. The last time so-called continued claims were higher was in March 2004.
“The data tends to support our call of a move in the unemployment rate to 5.5 percent,” said Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist for Merk Investments in New York. The jobless rate stood at 5 percent in April.