U.S. Jobless Claims Unchanged at 245,000 Last Week

By Ben LeubsdorfFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits held steady last week, remaining near historically low levels as 2017 draws to a close.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., were a seasonally adjusted 245,000 in the week ended Dec. 23, unchanged from the prior week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

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Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 240,000 new claims last week.

Data on jobless claims can be volatile from week to week, and seasonal adjustments tend to be especially tricky around holidays; Monday was Christmas Day. The four-week moving average for claims rose 1,750 to 237,750 last week.

After spiking in the wake of several powerful late-summer hurricanes, jobless claims have settled down to low levels consistent with broad health in the U.S. labor market.

Weekly initial unemployment applications have remained below 300,000 for 147 straight weeks--the longest such streak since 1970, when the U.S. population and workforce were far smaller than they are today.

The effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria are still being felt in some U.S. territories. The Labor Department on Thursday warned that "claims taking procedures continue to be disrupted in the Virgin Islands" and that the process in Puerto Rico "has still not returned to normal."

The number of claims drawn by workers longer than a week rose by 7,000 to 1.943 million in the week ended Dec. 16. Data on continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.

The U.S. economy is ending 2017 with the wind at its back.

The unemployment rate was 4.1% in November, remaining at a 17-year low for the second straight month. Output growth was solid in the second and third quarters, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's GDPNow model last week predicted a 2.8% growth rate for gross domestic product in the fourth quarter.

"Household spending has been expanding at a moderate rate, business investment has picked up and favorable economic conditions abroad have supported exports," Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said in mid-December. "Overall, we continue to expect that the economy will expand at a moderate pace."

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

Write to Ben Leubsdorf at ben.leubsdorf@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 28, 2017 08:45 ET (13:45 GMT)