Fewer Americans turned up last week to file claims for unemployment benefits, leading to the rise of less than expected new applications, signaling the continuous strengthening of the labor market.
A Labor Department report, released on Thursday, showed that the number of new applications claiming unemployment benefits rose by 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 278,000 in the week that ended January 31, from a revised 267,000 in the previous period.
About 50 economists surveyed by a news agency made the median forecast of an increase to 290,000 jobless claims.
The surge in initial claims left intact the bulk of the huge decline of the previous week, which had brought the claims to their lowest level since April 2000. The unemployment claims for the week that ended January 24 were revised in order to show 2,000 additional applications received compared to the previously reported.
Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut, said, “The big picture is very positive. The labor market is certainly one of the bright lights in terms of economic performance in recent months.”
In recent months, the jobless claims have remained very volatile due to the difficulties adjusting the data for seasonal variations. In any case, the jobless claims always signaled towards a firming labor market.
The four-week moving average of jobless claims, which is considered to be a better measure of the current trends in the country’s labor market as it irons out week-to-week volatility, dropped 6,500 to 292,750 last week.
The jobless data of last week will have no bearing on the employment report for the month January, which is to be released on Friday, because it falls outside the survey period.
The claims report also showed the number of Americans still getting the jobless benefits following an initial week of aid gained 6,000 to 2.40 million in the week that ended January 24.