Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 21,000
to a seasonally adjusted 275,000 for the week ended Dec. 17, the
highest since June, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Claims for the prior week were unrevised.
It was the 94th straight week that claims were below 300,000, a
threshold associated with a healthy labor market. That is the
longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much
smaller. The labor market is viewed as being at or near full
Labor market strength contributed to the Federal Reserve raising
its benchmark overnight interest rate last Wednesday by 25 basis
points to a range of 0.50 percent to 0.75 percent. The U.S.
central bank forecast three rate hikes in 2017.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time
applications for jobless benefits rising to 256,000 in the
latest week. Claims tend to be volatile around this time of the
year because of different timings of the various holidays.
A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors
influencing last week's data and that no states had been
estimated. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a
better measure of labor market trends as it irons out
week-to-week volatility, increased 6,000 to 263,750 last week.
Last week's claims data covered the survey period for December
nonfarm payrolls. The four-week average of claims increased
10,750 between the November and December survey period,
suggesting some moderation in job gains.
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 178,000 jobs in November.
The claims report also showed the number of people still
receiving benefits after an initial week of aid rose 15,000 to
2.04 million in the week ended Dec. 10. The four-week average of
the so-called continuing claims fell 1,750 to 2.04 million.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
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