U.S. Jobless Claims Fell Last Week -- Update

By Eric MorathFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell last week, a sign the tight labor market is making firms reluctant to dismiss workers.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., decreased by 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 225,000 in the week ended Dec. 9, the Labor Department said Thursday. Last week's claims were the second-lowest reading since 1973, just above 223,000 claims in the Oct. 14 week this year.

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Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 235,000 new claims last week.

Weekly jobless claims data on jobless claims tends to be volatile, especially in December and January, when not seasonally adjusted layoffs typically reach their peak due to year-end departures and the scaling back of seasonal staff.

The steadier four-week moving average for claims fell a seasonally adjusted 6,750 to 234,750 last week.

Americans are on pace to file the fewest jobless claims this year than any since 1973. Weekly initial unemployment applications have held below 300,000, viewed by many economists as a healthy level, for 145 weeks.

That is the longest streak since claims remained below that level for about three years ended April 1970, though the U.S. population and workforce were far smaller in those days.

A low level of layoffs this year is consistent with other reports showing steady hiring. Employers added a solid 228,000 in November and the unemployment rate held at 4.1%, a 17-year low.

The number of claims drawn by workers longer than a week fell by 27,000 to 1.89 million in the week ended Dec. 2. Data on continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.

Damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which struck U.S. territories in the Caribbean in September, has slowed the processing of jobless claims there for several months.

"Claims taking procedures continue to be disrupted in the Virgin Islands, " the Labor Department said on Thursday. "The claims taking process in Puerto Rico has still not returned to normal."

Write to Eric Morath at eric.morath@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 14, 2017 09:29 ET (14:29 GMT)