The number of Americans filing applications for new unemployment benefits fell for the second week in a row at the beginning of October, though recent hurricanes still impacted application numbers in the Southern U.S.
Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., decreased by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 243,000 in the week ended Oct. 7, the Labor Department said Thursday.
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Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected 252,000 new claims last week.
Jobless claims surged in the last month, hitting a peak of 298,000 claims at the beginning of September after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Louisiana. Claims then remained elevated after hurricanes Irma and Maria later hit parts of the Southern and Eastern U.S., affecting claims readings in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Despite more people applying for unemployment benefits because of the hurricanes, jobless claims have remained at historically low levels, showing the overall health of the labor market. Claims numbers have remained below 300,000 a week for more than two and a half years, the longest streak since the 1970s.
Jobless claims data can be volatile, but the more steady four-week moving average of claims fell to 257,500, after hitting a more than one-year peak in mid-September.
The number of claims workers made for longer than a week dropped to 1,889,000 in the week ended Sept. 30, the lowest level for continuing claims since December 1973. Continuing claims are reported along with last week's data because they are released with a one-week lag.
The unemployment rate dipped to 4.2% in September, a level not seen since early 2001, despite U.S. nonfarm employers shedding jobs for the first time since September 2010. This is likely a reflection of hurricane-related economic disruptions, though Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands aren't included in national employment data.
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 Sarah Chaney at Sarah.Chaney@wsj.com.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 12, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)