Applications for unemployment benefits lower than expected

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The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose less than forecast, marking the first increase in six weeks and adding to signs of a labor market strong enough to sustain consumers and drive the expansion.

Jobless claims climbed by 6,000 to 211,000 in the week ended Jan. 18, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 214,000. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, dropped to 213,250, the lowest since the end of September.

  • The recent trend in claims indicates companies are reluctant to pare headcounts with an unemployment rate at a 50-year low and difficulty attracting help.
  • Claims were estimated for six states and Puerto Rico for the week leading up to the Martin Luther King holiday.
  • The figures are consistent with the Federal Reserve’s view that the U.S. jobs market remains tight. The central bank’s latest Beige Book of economic conditions showed several Fed districts flagged worker shortages.
  • Continuing claims, reported with a one-week lag, dropped 37,000 to a three-week low of 1.73 million in the week ended Jan. 11.
  • The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.2%.
Bloomberg News
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