U.S. Jobless Claims Rise for First Time in 4 Weeks

By Sarah Chaney and Eric MorathFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

The number of Americans applying for new unemployment benefits rose last week, but remained at a low level suggesting steady job growth.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., increased by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 244,000 in the week ended April 15, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 240,000 new claims last week. The claims figure for the prior week was unrevised at 234,000.

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Claims increased last week for the first time since the week ended March 18.

Data on unemployment applications can be volatile from week to week. A more stable measure, the four-week moving average of initial claims, fell by 4,250 last week to 243,000.

Jobless claims have remained below 300,000 for 111 consecutive weeks, the longest such streak since 1970--when the U.S. workforce and population were much smaller than they are today. The number of weekly claims has generally declined since the recession ended in 2009.

A low level of layoffs typically indicates steady employment growth.

Hiring accelerated during the first two months of 2017, but the March jobs report presented a mixed picture. Nonfarm payrolls increased by a seasonally adjusted 98,000 in March from the prior month, the Labor Department said, a slowdown from earlier in the year. The unemployment rate, however, dropped to 4.5%, the lowest level since May 2007.

The Labor Department on Thursday also said continuing unemployment claims, reflecting benefits drawn by workers for longer than a week, decreased by 49,000 to 1.98 million in the week ended April 8. Data on continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.

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 Eric Morath at eric.morath@wsj.com.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 20, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)