The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell last week, but claims filed by federal employees jumped due to the partial shutdown of the federal government.
Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., fell by 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 213,000 in the week ended January 12, the Labor Department said Thursday. That is up from 216,000 reported a week earlier. Economists had forecast 221,000 jobless claims.
A year ago, there were 226,000 new applications for unemployment in the second week of January.
Those figures reflect claims filed under regular state programs. The lower than expected number for the past week indicates that private contractors working for the federal government, many of whom are not working during the shutdown, are not piling into unemployment benefits.
Federal employees file under a separate program, which is reported with a one-week lag. For the week ended January 5, the second week of the shutdown, 10,454 federal employees filed for first-time benefits. That was up 4,760 the week before and 929 the prior week. A year earlier, 1,148 federal employees filed for unemployment benefits. Claims by federal workers aren’t adjusted for seasonality.
Jobless claims are also closely watched for indications that the trade dispute with China may be taking a toll on the labor market. When the Trump administration announced it would impose tariffs on steel, aluminum, and imports from China, many predicted the tariffs and retaliation would come at a steep cost for American workers. So far, there’s no sign of tariff-triggered layoffs.