U.S. Jobless Claims Drop to Four-Week Low in Tight Labor Market

(Bloomberg) — Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits fell to a four-week low at the end of last year, the latest sign that the labor market remains robust.

Jobless claims fell by 2,000 to 222,000 in the week ended Dec. 28, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday that were about in line with estimates in Bloomberg’s survey of economists. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, edged up somewhat to 233,250.

Key Insights

  • The third straight drop in filings underscores recent signs of strength in the labor market. Companies may be less likely to let employees go amid an elevated level of job openings and difficulty attracting talented and experienced personnel.
  • The four-week average was the highest since January 2018 following a surge in claims in early December that was likely due to the late timing of the Thanksgiving holiday.
  • A separate report Thursday showed U.S. employers last month announced the fewest job cuts since July 2018 as the labor market remained tight. Job cuts totaled 32,843 in December, down 26% from November and 25% lower than a year earlier, according to staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

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  • Continuing claims, reported with a one-week lag, increased by 5,000 to 1.728 million in the week ended Dec. 21.
  • The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.2%.
  • Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast that claims would decline to 220,000. The prior reading for filings was revised up to 224,000.

–With assistance from Jordan Yadoo.

*story by Bloomberg