U.S. jobless claims hit four-week low, underscoring strength

U.S. JOBLESS CLAIMS decreased by 12,000 to 209,000 last week. / BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO/GABBY JONES
U.S. JOBLESS CLAIMS decreased by 12,000 to 209,000 last week. / BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO/GABBY JONES

WASHINGTON – Filings for United States unemployment benefits dropped to a four-week low, offering the latest sign of labor-market strength.

Jobless claims decreased by 12,000 to 209,000 in the week ended Aug. 17, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday that fell below all estimates in Bloomberg’s survey of economists. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, ticked up by 500 to 214,500.

Key Insights

  • The drop in claims bodes well for the August jobs report as the period encompasses the reporting week that the Labor Department surveys for the tally. Jobless claims remain near historically low levels, evidence of tightness that may help ease recession fears.
  • Employment remains a bright spot for the economy, even as cracks begin to show in the manufacturing sector and business investment. Still, government data released Wednesday showed payrolls in the year through March will probably be revised down by 501,000, or almost 42,000 jobs per month.
  • The August payrolls report due Sept. 6 will shed light on whether the latest escalation of the trade war with China has impacted hiring at American businesses.

What Bloomberg’s economists say:

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“Jobless claims fell…suggesting the impact of recent trade-war tensions on the labor market has so far been limited, said Yelena Shulyatyeva. “In the coming months, the data could get distorted by census hiring, which may temporarily lower the number of people seeking unemployment benefits.”

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  • Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast that claims would ease to 216,000. The prior week’s reading was revised up by 1,000 to 221,000.
  • Continuing claims, reported with a one-week lag, fell by 54,000, the steepest drop since April, to 1.674 million in the week ended Aug. 10.
  • The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.2%, a level it has maintained for more than a year.

Reade Pickert is a reporter for Bloomberg News.

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