New applications for U.S. unemployment benefits inched up by 3,000 to 259,000 in the seven days ended Oct. 17. This is the first gain after two straight large declines. The latest report on initial claims fits with a healthy labor market. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast initial claims to rise to 265,000. Claims had fallen by 20,000 in the prior two weeks. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, edged down to a seasonally adjusted 263,250 from 265,250, the Labor Department said Thursday. This is the lowest level since December 1973. The four-week average smooths out sharp fluctuations in the more volatile weekly report and is seen as a more accurate predictor of labor-market trends. Continuing jobless claims increased by 6,000 to 2.17 million in the week ended Oct. 10. These claims reflect people already receiving unemployment checks.
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