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Jobless Claims Fall by More Than Expected as Labor Market Rebounds

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File
JOHN CARNEY

The labor market has now joined the housing market and the stock market in snapping back into shape after briefly wavering.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell by 23,0000 to a seasonally adjusted 216,000 for the week ended February 15, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Economists had expected a decline to just 225,000. The President’s Day Holiday, which affected reporting in several states, may have exagerated the drop in claims.

Jobless claims hit multi-decade lows in the second half of 2018 but climbed back up during the government shutdown in January.

The four-week moving average of initial claims rose 4,000 to 235,7000. Although this is typically considered a better measure of labor market trends as it smoothes out week-to-week volatility, this now may be reflecting the misleading jump from the shutdown.

Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs. They have been closely watched for signs that the trade disputes are weighing on the labor market. So far, they have defied predictions that tariffs would led to job losses.

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