Weekly Unemployment Claims Hold Steady Near 2-Month Low

WASHINGTON (Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

Initial jobless claims held roughly steady last week at nearly a two-month low, pointing toward moderate labor market growth, federal officials said Thursday.

There were 326,000 people who filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ended Saturday, a slight increase from the previous week’s downwardly revised figure of 325,000, the Labor Department said.

After typical volatility during the year-end shopping season, jobless claims have settled in recent weeks to around 330,000. Weekly claims below 350,000 indicate moderate job growth, economists said.

The four-week average for jobless claims, which smoothes out some of the volatility, was 331,500 last week. That was down 3,750 from the previous week.

Last week’s 326,000 claims were slightly fewer than analysts expected, and indicate the labor market might show improvement in January after a lackluster December that saw the economy only add 74,000 net new jobs.

Stabilizing unemployment claims show the jobs market might be “on firmer footing” than in December, said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Sterne Agee.

Thursday’s report adds to expectations that Federal Reserve policymakers will agree to continue to reduce the central bank’s monthly bond-buying program when they meet next week. In December, the Fed reduced the monthly purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion.