U.S. Jobless Claims Fell Last Week to Near 45-Year Low

The number of Americans filing applications for new unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in nearly 45 years, a sign the labor market is beginning 2018 with strong momentum.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., fell last week to a seasonally adjusted 220,000 in the week ended Jan. 13, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected 246,000 new claims last week.

Last week's drop comes after four consecutive weeks of increases.

Claims have remained historically low, showing the overall health of the labor market. Claims numbers have remained below 300,000 a week for almost three years--the longest such streak since 1970, when the U.S. population and workforce were far smaller than they are today.

Jobless claims data can be volatile, especially around holidays; Monday was a federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. The four-week moving average, a steadier measure, fell by 6,250 to 244,500 last week.

The number of claims workers made for longer than a week rose by 76,000 to 1.952 million in the week ended Jan. 6. Continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.

The unemployment rate was 4.1% in December, holding at a 17-year low, and analysts say the job market could further tighten this year, potentially tugging the unemployment rate below 4%.

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

Write to Sarah Chaney at sarah.chaney@wsj.com and Sharon Nunn at sharon.nunn@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 18, 2018 08:45 ET (13:45 GMT)