U.S. jobless claims rise, labor market still tightening

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FILE PHOTO: Applicants fill out forms during a job fair at the Southeast LA-Crenshaw WorkSource Center in Los Angeles November 20, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (Copyright Reuters 2017)

The number of Americans

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filing for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last

week, but the underlying trend remained consistent with

tightening labor market conditions.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased

22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 259,000 for the week ended Jan.

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21, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior

week were revised to show 3,000 more applications received than

previously reported.

Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated

with a healthy labor market, for 99 consecutive weeks. That is

the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much

smaller.

Last week's data included the Martin Luther King Jr.

holiday, which could have impacted on the data. Claims tend to

be volatile around this time of the year because of different

timings of the various holidays.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better

measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week

volatility, fell 2,000 to 245,500 last week, the lowest since

November 1973.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time

applications for jobless benefits rising to 247,000 in the

latest week. A Labor Department analyst said there were no

special factors influencing last week's data and no states had

been estimated.

The labor market is viewed as being at or close to full

employment, with the unemployment rate near a nine-year low of

4.7 percent. With the labor market tightening, wage growth is

picking up, which should provide a boost to the economy through

strong consumer spending and a continued housing market

recovery.

Thursday's claims report also showed the number of people

still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased

41,000 to 2.1 million in the week ended Jan. 14.

The four-week average of the so-called continuing claims

fell 1,250 to 2.1 million. The continuing claims data covered

the survey week for January's unemployment rate.

The four-week average of claims increased 49,000 between the

December and January survey weeks, suggesting little change in

the unemployment rate this month.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

((Lucia.Mutikani@thomsonreuters.com; 1 202 898 8315; Reuters

Messaging: lucia.mutikani.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))