U.S. jobless claims fall more than expected to four-week low

UNITED STATES jobless claims declined by 9,000 claims to 221,000 last week. / BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO/MARK KAUZLARICH
UNITED STATES jobless claims declined by 9,000 claims to 221,000 last week. / BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO/MARK KAUZLARICH

NEW YORK – Filings for United States unemployment benefits fell more than expected to a four-week low, as the labor market tightens further following the end of a five-week government shutdown.

Seasonally adjusted jobless claims fell by 9,000 to 221,000 in the week ended March 16, beating economist forecasts for 225,000, Labor Department figures showed Thursday. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, ticked up to 225,000 and has steadily increased since October.

Key insights

The decline in claims indicates the labor market remains solid as companies seek and hold onto skilled workers. At the same time, claims levels remain higher than before the partial government shutdown that ended in January and the four-week average continues to inch up. The report comes a day after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell touted a “strong” job market, though he noted that monthly job growth may have slowed. Employers added just 20,000 jobs in February, the fewest since September 2017, the Labor Department reported earlier this month.

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Continuing claims, which are reported with a one-week lag, fell by 27,000 to 1.75 million in the week ended March 9. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.2 percent for a third straight week. The previous week’s claims were revised up to 230,000 from 229,000.

Katia Dmitrieva is a reporter for Bloomberg News.