The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, dropping for a second straight week as labor market conditions tightened further.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 238,000 for the week ended Nov. 25, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims edging up to 240,000 in the latest week. The data included last Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday. Claims tend be volatile around shifting holidays.
Last week marked the 143rd consecutive week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with a strong labor market. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller.
The labor market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent. A Labor Department official said claims-taking procedures continued to be disrupted in the Virgin Islands, whose infrastructure was destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, increased 2,250 to 242,250 last week.
The claims report also showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased 42,000 to 1.96 million in the week ended Nov. 18.
The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims rose 18,250 to 1.91 million. The continuing claims data covered the week of the household survey from which November’s unemployment rate will be calculated.
Continuing claims increased 57,000 between the October and November survey periods suggesting little change in the unemployment rate this month.
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