U.S. jobless claims decline, approach an almost 45-year low

U.S. JOBLESS CLAIMS decreased by 9,000 to 221,000 last week. /BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/LUKE SHARRETT
U.S. JOBLESS CLAIMS decreased by 9,000 to 221,000 last week. /BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/LUKE SHARRETT

NEW YORK – U.S. filings for unemployment benefits unexpectedly declined last week, hovering close to an almost 45-year low and signaling a tight job market, Labor Department figures showed Thursday.

Highlights of jobless claims (Week ended Feb. 3)

  • Jobless claims decreased by 9,000 to 221,000 (est. 232,000)
  • Four-week average of initial claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, fell to 224,500 – lowest since 1973
  • Continuing claims declined by 33,000 to 1.92 million in week ended Jan. 27 (data reported with one-week lag)

Key takeaways

The historically low level of jobless claims is a reminder that employers are holding on to existing staff given the difficulty finding experienced and qualified workers. Applications for jobless benefits below the 300,000 mark are considered consistent with a healthy labor market.

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The latest monthly jobs report showed hiring remained vibrant entering 2018, with payrolls rising 200,000 in January and the unemployment rate holding near an almost 17-year low, which helped push up wage growth. The solid job market is one reason behind ongoing gains in consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy.

Other details

  • Prior week’s continuing claims reading was 1.96 million
  • Unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.4 percent
  • Claims were estimated for Maine last week, according to the Labor Department

Shobhana Chandra is a reporter for Bloomberg News.