U.S. Jobless Claims Fell, Labor Market Continues to Tighten

By Sharon Nunn and Sarah ChaneyFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

The number of Americans filing applications for new unemployment benefits fell last week, signaling a strong labor market that's continuing to tighten.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., fell by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 236,000 in the week ended Dec. 2, the Labor Department said Thursday. This was in line with what economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected.

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Last week's near-historic low claims figure is a sign Friday's jobs report could bring yet another historically low unemployment rate. The number dipped to 4.1% in October, the lowest reading in almost two decades. Employers hired at a strong pace in October, and temporary holiday season hiring that month and in November could further drive down Friday's unemployment rate reading.

Still, jobless claims data can be volatile. The four-week moving average, a steadier measure, fell along with the headline number, hitting 241,500 last week.

Meanwhile, the number of claims workers made for longer than a week a also dropped, falling to 1,908,000 in the week ended Nov. 25, which is reported along with last week's data because continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.

Recently, the measure of workers on longer-term unemployment rolls had been trending near the lowest levels since 1973, while the weekly unemployment applications have held below 300,000 for more than two-and-a-half years, the longest streak since the 1970s too.

Despite this week's rosy claims number, claims-taking procedures in recently hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands remains disrupted, meaning the overall claims figure could be higher.

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

December 07, 2017 08:45 ET (13:45 GMT)