Filings for U.S. jobless benefits hold at highest since June

UNITED STATES jobless claims were unchanged at 227,000 last week. / BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO/LUKE SHARRETT
UNITED STATES jobless claims were unchanged at 227,000 last week. / BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO/LUKE SHARRETT

WASHINGTON – Filings for United States unemployment benefits held last week at the highest level since June, bucking forecasts for a decline and suggesting the labor market may be softer than previously thought.

Jobless claims were unchanged at 227,000 in the week ended Nov. 16, as the prior reading was revised higher by 2,000, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday. The reading was above all estimates in Bloomberg’s survey of economists. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, increased to 221,000, also the highest since June.

Key insights

  • The figures have the potential to stoke additional concern that the economy is slowing in the fourth quarter following data on retail sales and factory output that spurred analysts to lower growth projections. One caveat: the increase came during the week containing Veterans Day, and seasonal adjustments tend to be trickier around holidays.
  • While initial claims remain near historically low levels, they’re up slightly from a year earlier. The latest report is also likely to get more scrutiny than usual because the week included the 12th of the month, which makes it the reference period for the Labor Department’s November jobs report due out in early December.
  • Federal Reserve officials have signaled little concern recently about the state of employment, as Chairman Jerome Powell last week described the labor market as “strong” and “healthy.”
  • Only one state, Pennsylvania, had estimated claims last week. In the prior report, five states including California were based on estimates, along with Puerto Rico.

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  • Continuing claims, reported with a one-week lag, rose 3,000 to 1.695 million in the week ended Nov. 9. That’s the highest since mid-August.
  • The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held steady at 1.2%.
  • Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast that claims would decline to 218,000. Estimates ranged from 213,000 to 225,000.

Reade Pickert is a reporter for Bloomberg News.

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