The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly last week, but still remained at a very low level consistent with healthy labor market conditions. Initial claims for unemployment benefits increased 22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 259,000 in the week ended Jan. 21, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were revised up by 3,000 to 237,000.
Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had estimated initial claims to rise to 246,000 in the latest week. “Claims have been volatile in recent weeks, but through the volatility they continue to show no sign of an uptrend,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, in a note to clients.
The Jobless claims have been below 300,000 for 99 straight weeks, the longest streak since 1970. At that time, the data base was much smaller than today. The four-week moving average of initial claims, a less-volatile measure of labor market trends, fell by 2,000 to 245,500 last week.
The continued strength in the labor market supported Fed’s decision to raise interest gradually.