US Jobless Claims Rise, Labor Markets Setting

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The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits rose more than expected during the last week, but the trend remained consistent with sustained strength in the labor market. Initial claims for state unemployment aid increased by 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 298,000 by Dec. 27, according to the Labor Department, after four straight weeks of declines.

“The claims data still point to relatively upbeat conditions in the labor market through some of the ups and downs in the weekly figures,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York. Though last week’s increase was above Wall Street’s expectations for a rise to 290,000, claims numbers are very volatile around the Christmas holiday period. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week unpredictability, rose only 250 to 290,750 last week. It remained below the 300,000 mark for 16 straight weeks.

“Companies are not laying off workers for weak demand recession conditions,” said Chris Rupkey, a chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York. “This means that unemployment will continue to fall at a fast rate.”

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