U.S. Filings for Jobless Benefits Fall to Three-Week Low

(Bloomberg) -
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Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits fell to a three-week low, reflecting a solid labor market and indicating the data are emerging from a recent bout of seasonal volatility.

Jobless claims declined to 222,000 in the week ended Dec. 21 from 235,000, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday that were in line with the median forecast in Bloomberg’s survey of economists. Filings were estimated for six states and Puerto Rico.

The decrease in filings, and gradual return to the longer- term trend, 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 luring talented and experienced personnel.

Earlier this month, claims unexpectedly surged, likely due to the late timing of the Thanksgiving holiday. The spike underscores the challenge the government has in making seasonal adjustments to the data during the year-end period.

The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, rose to 228,000, the highest since mid-February.

Continuing claims, reported with a one-week lag, declined by 6,000 to 1.72 million in the week ended Dec. 14.

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 after a previously reported 234,000 for the prior week.