The number of Americans
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filing for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last
week, but the underlying trend remained consistent with
tightening labor market conditions.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased
22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 259,000 for the week ended Jan.
21, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior
week were revised to show 3,000 more applications received than
Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated
with a healthy labor market, for 99 consecutive weeks. That is
the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much
Last week's data included the Martin Luther King Jr.
holiday, which could have impacted on the data. Claims tend to
be volatile around this time of the year because of different
timings of the various holidays.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better
measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week
volatility, fell 2,000 to 245,500 last week, the lowest since
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time
applications for jobless benefits rising to 247,000 in the
latest week. A Labor Department analyst said there were no
special factors influencing last week's data and no states had
The labor market is viewed as being at or close to full
employment, with the unemployment rate near a nine-year low of
4.7 percent. With the labor market tightening, wage growth is
picking up, which should provide a boost to the economy through
strong consumer spending and a continued housing market
Thursday's claims report also showed the number of people
still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased
41,000 to 2.1 million in the week ended Jan. 14.
The four-week average of the so-called continuing claims
fell 1,250 to 2.1 million. The continuing claims data covered
the survey week for January's unemployment rate.
The four-week average of claims increased 49,000 between the
December and January survey weeks, suggesting little change in
the unemployment rate this month.
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
((Lucia.Mutikani@thomsonreuters.com; 1 202 898 8315; Reuters