Jobless Claims Rise Slightly But Remain at Historically Low Levels

US President Donald Trump arrives for a "Keep America Great" campaign rally at Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio, on January 9, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits increased slightly less week, indicating that layoffs remain incredibly low and the country’s longest economic expansion is likely to stretch on into the future.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 205,000 for the week ended February 8, Labor Department data showed on Thursday.

That was below the 210,000 estimated by economists. The prior week’s figure was revised up by 1,000.

Weekly jobless claims can be volatile but have recently become steady at very low levels. The four-week moving average, which smoothes out some of that volatility, was unchanged at 212,000.

Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs. The ongoing low level of claims indicate that employers are hanging on to workers even as the economy showed some signs of slowing in the second half of 2019.

Job openings have been contracting for two months. These measure job postings by employers looking to fill positions. The decline may not indicate a softening of the labor market. Rather, it could be showing employers are looking toward training and capital investment to expand production due to very low levels of available workers.

Continuing claims are reported with a one week delay. The number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits after their initial week fell 61,000 to 1.70 million for the week ended February 1.

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