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 remains low, signaling a strong labor market that is likely to continue tightening in 2018.

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Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., rose by 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 261,000 in the week ended Jan. 6, the Labor Department said Thursday. This was the fourth-straight week of claims increases. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected 245,000 new claims last week.

Weekly jobless claims have held below 300,000, viewed by many economists as a healthy level, for almost three years, the longest streak since the 1970s. Meanwhile, the number of claims workers made for longer than a week dropped to 1,867,000 in the week ended Dec. 30, which is the lowest level of insured unemployment benefits in more than four decades. Insured unemployment is reported along with last week's data because continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.

Jobless claims data can be volatile. The four-week moving average, a steadier measure, rose 9,000 to 250,750 last week.

Other measures of the labor market also show its strength, with the most recent unemployment rate release holding a 17-year low at 4.1%. Analysts say the job market could further tighten this year, potentially tugging the unemployment rate below 4%.

More than half "of small firms reported that there were few or no qualified applicants for job openings, the highest on record. That suggests the unemployment rate will continue to fall," Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients earlier this week.

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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 Sharon Nunn at sharon.nunn@wsj.com and Josh Mitchell at josh.mitchell@wsj.com.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 11, 2018 08:45 ET (13:45 GMT)