U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Dip To Three-Month Low

With the more closely watched monthly jobs report looming, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing a modest decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended December 31st.

The report said initial jobless claims slipped to 204,000, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 223,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to come in unchanged compared to the 225,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the unexpected dip, jobless claims fell to their lowest level since hitting 190,000 in the week ended September 24th.

The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average also edged down to 213,750, a decrease of 6,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 220,500.

Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, also fell by 24,000 to 1.694 million in the week ended December 24th.

Meanwhile, the four-week moving average of continuing claims inched up to 1,687,500, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 1,681,500.

“Initial claims data can be noisy around the holidays, but the low level of initial claims is a reminder that employers overall still aren’t laying off large numbers of workers,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, Lead U.S. Economist at Oxford Economics.

She added, “A higher level of continued claims, meanwhile, suggests that workers are collecting benefits for longer because finding a new job may be getting more difficult, if only slightly so.”

On Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its more closely watched monthly employment report for December.

Economists currently expect employment to jump by 200,000 jobs in December after surging by 263,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate is expected to hold at 3.7 percent.

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