Jobless claims rise to 206K after hitting 52-year low

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New applications for jobless aid rose slightly last week after dropping to the lowest level since 1969, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department.

In the week ending Dec. 11, seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance totaled 206,000. Claims rose by 18,000 from the previous week’s revised total of 188,000.

The four-week moving average for claims fell by 16,000 to 203,750, the lowest level since Nov. 15. 1969. 

Layoffs have dropped substantially as employers scramble to fill a record number of job openings from a smaller pool of workers than before the pandemic. The unemployment rate dropped to 4.2 percent in November and wages rose 5 percent year over year as the competitive labor market gives workers greater discretion and leverage.

Economists say that while the labor market is strengthening, seasonal adjustments based on pre-pandemic hiring patterns may be skewing week-to-week movements in claims.

The Labor Department said Thursday it expected a decline of 34,989 claims based on seasonal factors. Without adjusting for the seasonal drop, claims fell by 16,426. 

Seasonal shifts, destructive weather across much of the country, and the emergence of the omicron variant within the U.S. could weigh on claims moving forward, but economists say it is too soon to know how any of those factors will affect the economy. Even so, the persistent decline in the average jobless claims reflect resilience in a competitive labor market.

Tags COVID-19 economy Jobless claims omicron Unemployment

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