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Jobless claims holding steady near 45-year low

Jobless claims holding steady near 45-year low
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Jobless claims fell unexpectedly last week, with the monthly average posting a 45-year low, another sign of the labor market's steady tightening.

The number of workers filing for unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 221,000 for the week ended Feb. 3, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

The monthly average, which is a less volatile measure of where the labor market is heading, dropped 10,000, to 224,500, the lowest level since March 1973, when it was 222,000.

Claims have remained below 300,000, which signals a healthy labor market, for 153 weeks.

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The continued low level of jobless claims reflects how employers are holding onto their workers. 

Unemployment, which at 4.1 percent is a 17-year low, is expected to drop into the mid-3 percent range this year.

In January, employers added a robust 200,000 jobs and wages finally rose for workers, which raised inflation fears across the stock markets.

The Dow Jones industrial average has mostly bounced back this week but slid again on Thursday and was down more than 300 points by lunch time. 

Overall, the number of people already collecting unemployment benefits dropped by 33,000 to 1.92 million, the report showed.

The solid job market is giving consumers more confidence to spend, which is about 70 percent of the economy.