U.S. Jobless Claims Rose Last Week

The number of Americans filing applications for new unemployment benefits rose last week, after falling to the lowest level in 44 years in mid-October.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., increased by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 233,000 in the week ended Oct. 21, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected 235,000 new claims last week.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands continue to experience power outages and infrastructure damage because of recent hurricanes, causing many applying for unemployment benefits to submit paper applications, a Labor Department economist said. This caused what usually would have been a large spike in claims after the storms to slow to a trickle, with unemployment benefit applications falling to their lowest level in 44 years in mid-October.

Despite recent storm activity, claims have remained historically low, showing the overall health of the labor market. Claims numbers have remained below 300,000 a week for more than two and a half years.

Jobless claims data can be volatile. The four-week moving average, a steadier measure, dropped 9,000 to 239,500 last week.

The number of claims workers made for longer than a week also fell, declining to 1,893,000 in the week ended Oct. 14, which is reported along with last week’s data because continuing claims are released with a one-week lag. This marks the lowest level for continuing claims since 1973.

The unemployment rate dipped to 4.2% in September, the lowest reading in 16 years, despite U.S. nonfarm employers shedding jobs for the first time since September 2010. The hemorrhaged jobs are likely a reflection of hurricane-related economic disruptions that affected other parts of the country, though Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands aren’t included in national employment data.
Source: Dow Jones