US jobless claims rise to a four-week high, topping forecast

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Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits rose to a four-week high and exceeded estimates, a sign the labor market may be softening somewhat even as it remains strong overall.

Jobless claims rose to 229,000 in the week ended March 9, above economist forecasts for 225,000, Labor Department figures showed Thursday. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, declined to a six-week low of 223,750.

Key insights

The rise in claims, although modest, suggests forces such as the government shutdown and slower global growth could be reverberating through the economy. Some analysts have expressed concern that recent rises in claims indicate the job market may be cooling somewhat following several years of strong gains. At the same time, the Federal Reserve's patient stance on interest rates is likely to support further labor-market gains in coming months.

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Continuing claims, which are reported with a one-week lag, rose by 18,000 to 1.776 million in the week ended March 2. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.2%. The previous week’s total claims were unrevised at 223,000. A separate Labor Department report Thursday showed that U.S. import prices rose 0.6% from the prior month in February, the most since May. The gain was driven by a 4.9% rise for fuel imports, while nonfuel import prices were unchanged.

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