U.S. jobless claims rise
modestly as labor market tightens
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[August 24, 2017]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of
Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose less than expected last
week, suggesting a further tightening in labor market conditions.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 2,000 to a
seasonally adjusted 234,000 for the week ended Aug. 19, the Labor
Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was unrevised.
Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a robust
labor market, for 129 consecutive weeks. That is the longest such
stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 238,000 in
the latest week. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a
better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week
volatility, fell 2,750 to 237,750 last week, the lowest level since May.
Low numbers of layoffs have helped reduce the unemployment rate to a
16-year low of 4.3 percent. The labor market tightness could allow the
Federal Reserve to outline a plan to begin unwinding its $4.2 trillion
portfolio of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities at its Sept.
19-20 policy meeting.
But the U.S. central bank is likely to hold off raising interest rates
again until December as inflation continues to undershoot its 2 percent
target even as the labor market nears full employment. The Fed has
increased borrowing costs twice this year.
A Labor Department official said there were no special factors
influencing the claims data and that no states had been estimated.
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Job seekers line up to apply during "Amazon Jobs Day," a job fair
being held at 10 fulfillment centers across the United States aimed
at filling more than 50,000 jobs, at the Amazon.com Fulfillment
Center in Fall River, Massachusetts, U.S., August 2, 2017.
The claims report also showed the number of people still receiving benefits
after an initial week of aid was unchanged at 1.95 million in the week ended
Aug. 12. The so-called continuing claims have now been below the 2 million mark
for 19 straight weeks, pointing to shrinking labor market slack.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims fell by 2,750 to 1.96 million,
remaining below the 2 million mark for the 17th consecutive week.
The continuing claims data covered the survey week for August's unemployment
rate. The four-week moving average of continuing claims fell 6,250 between the
July and August survey periods, suggesting little change in the jobless rate.
The unemployment rate has fallen five-tenths of a percentage point this year.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)
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