U.S. Jobless Claims Rose Slightly Last Week

By Sarah Chaney and Josh Mitchell Features Dow Jones Newswires

WASHINGTON-The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits ticked up last week, though overall numbers remain consistent with steady job gains.

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Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., rose 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 234,000 in the week ended May 20, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast 237,000 new claims.

Estimates of jobless claims can be volatile from week to week, but generally have hovered near four-decade lows in recent months, suggesting that employers are holding on to workers.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, which evens out weekly volatility, decreased 5,750 last week to 235,250, the lowest level for this average since April 1973.

The number of claims drawn by workers for longer than a week--so-called continuing claims--grew 24,000 to 1.92 million in the week ended May 13. Data on continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.

The persistently low level of layoffs is one sign the labor market is tightening and may be at or near the level that economists consider maximum employment. The Labor Department said in its latest jobs report that employers added 211,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.4%, a level last seen in May 2007.

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The Labor Department's latest report on jobless claims can be accessed at: https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf

Write to Sarah Chaney at sarah.chaney@wsj.com and Josh Mitchell at joshua.mitchell@wsj.com.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 25, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)