U.S. Jobless Claims Rose Last Week

By Sharon Nunn and Josh Mitchell Features Dow Jones Newswires

The number of Americans filing applications for new unemployment benefits rose last week, but remain near historic lows, helping to wrap up a year of historic lows for different U.S. employment measures.

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Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., rose by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 245,000 in the week ended Dec. 16, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected 230,000 new claims last week.

The low number of unemployment benefit applications filed last week further shows the strength of the labor market, which has seen historic lows in multiple job market gauges this year.

Americans are on pace to file the fewest number of jobless claims this year since 1973, and weekly jobless claims have held below 300,000, viewed by many economists as a healthy level, for more than two and a half years. This is the longest streak since the 1970s.

Moreover, the unemployment rate currently sits at 4.1%, an almost two-decade low.

Some analysts and economists project this tight labor market will likely strengthen further in 2018.

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"Employment growth continues to be more than strong enough to keep the unemployment rate trending down. We expect the unemployment rate to be down to 3.6% at the end of 2018," said High Frequency Economics chief U.S. economist Jim O'Sullivan in a note to clients previously.

Still, jobless claims data can be volatile. The four-week moving average, a steadier measure, rose to 236,000 last week. Meanwhile, the number of claims workers made for longer than a week increased to 1,932,000 in the week ended Dec. 9, which is reported along with last week's data because continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.

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

Write to Sharon Nunn at sharon.nunn@wsj.com and Josh Mitchell at joshua.mitchell@wsj.com.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 21, 2017 08:45 ET (13:45 GMT)