Jobless claims tick up but reflect healthy labor market

Jobless claims tick up but reflect healthy labor market
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First-time claims for jobless benefits rose last week but remain near historically low levels as employers hang on to their workers amid slow economic growth.

Weekly unemployment benefits applications increased by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 257,000, up from the lowest level since November 1973, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.

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The four-week average, which is a better indicator of the job market's health, dropped 4,750 to 256,000 last week, a 42-year low.

Applications have held below 300,000 for 60 straight weeks, the longest stretch since 1973.

But the economy expanded at an anemic 0.5 percent rate in the January-March period, the slowest pace in two years.

Jason FurmanJason FurmanEconomy adds 130K jobs in August, falling below expectations Homelessness and the high cost of living Trump looks for longer boost from economy MORE, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said that despite the slow growth the "labor market data remain robust, with continuing private-sector job creation, increasing labor force participation and historically low levels of unemployment insurance claims."

"Today’s report underscores that there is more work to do, and the president will continue to call on Congress to support policies that will boost our long-run growth and living standards, including policies to support innovation and investments in infrastructure and job training and to promote greater competition across the economy, as well as high-standards free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership," Furman said. 

The economy added 628,000 jobs in the first three months of the year with gains averaging 209,000 over the past three months.

Ryan Sweet, an economist with Moody's Analytics, noted that the economy has produced yet another bad start in the first three months of the year.  

"Because we have seen this before, our confidence in the durability of the expansion isn’t waning," Sweet said in a blog post.

"This won’t be the last time during this expansion that GDP disappoints," he said.

The April jobs report is due out May 6 and will provide another glimpse into the labor market's strength in a presidential election year.