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.
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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
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 18, 2018 08:45 ET (13:45 GMT)