The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since December 1969, a fresh sign of health in the labor market.
Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., declined by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 210,000 in the week ended Feb. 24, the Labor Department said Thursday.
That was the lowest reading for initial claims since the week ended Dec. 6, 1969. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 225,000 new claims last week.
Jobless claims are volatile from week to week, especially around holidays when seasonal adjustments can be tricky; Presidents Day was last week. The Labor Department also said Thursday that claims-taking procedures in hurricane-hit Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands “have still not returned to normal.”
The four-week moving average for initial claims fell last week by 5,000 to 220,500, its lowest level since Dec. 27, 1969.
Unemployment claims have remained historically low for several years, a sign of health in the U.S. labor market. They have now remained below 300,000 for 156 straight weeks, the longest stretch since a 161-week run that ended in April 1970–when the U.S. population and workforce were far smaller than they are today.
Employers have continued to add jobs and the U.S. unemployment rate in January was 4.1%, holding at its lowest level since December 2000. Economic growth has been healthy in recent quarters, supported by buoyant consumer and business confidence.
“Strong job gains in recent years have led to widespread reductions in unemployment across the income spectrum and for all major demographic groups,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said this week in testimony before Congress.
The number of claims made by workers longer than a week increased by 57,000 to 1.931 million in the week ended Feb. 17. Continuing claims are reported with a one-week lag.
Source: Dow Jones