Jobless Claims Better than Expected Again, Defying Tariff Fearmongers

WATKINS GLEN, NY - AUGUST 05: A sky diver displays an American flag prior to the start of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GoBowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 5, 2018 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week.

In the week ending August 18, new claims for unemployment benefits came in at 210,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s 212,000. Economists had expected claims to rise to 215,000.

The weekly jobless claims data is being closely watched for signs of layoffs as a result of trade disputes. While there have been some widely reported instances of companies laying off workers or planning to do so as a result of tariffs, the claims data indicate that these are isolated phenomena that are not indicative of the health of the labor market.

The four-week moving average was 213,750, a decrease of 1,750 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 215,500. Economists had predicted that number to remain unchanged. Many economy watchers think the four-week average is a better gauge of the labor market because it smooths out week to week volatility.