- The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose modestly last week.
- The data suggested sustained labor market strength that could help to support the economy amid risks from the coronavirus and weak business investment.
- Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose to 210,000 for the week ended Feb. 15, the Labor Department said.
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose modestly last week, suggesting sustained labor market strength that could help to support the economy amid risks from the coronavirus and weak business investment.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 210,000 for the week ended Feb. 15, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims increasing to 210,000 in the latest week. The Labor Department said claims for Alabama, California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Virginia were estimated because of Monday’s Presidents Day holiday, which left the states with little time to compile the data.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 3,250 to 209,000 last week.
The claims data covered the period during which the government surveyed business establishments for the nonfarm payrolls component of February’s employment report. Claims fell 13,000 between the January and February survey weeks, suggesting solid job growth this month.
The economy created 225,000 jobs in January after adding 147,000 positions in December. The unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.6% as more people entered the labor force, a sign of confidence in their job prospects.
Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s Jan. 28-29 meeting published on Wednesday showed policymakers “judged that conditions in the labor market remained strong,” and “expected payroll employment to expand at a healthy pace this year.”
The Fed also said it “expected economic growth to continue at a moderate pace,” but expressed concern about possible economic risks from the coronavirus which has killed more than 2,000 people, mostly in China.
Labor market momentum could slow this year, with job openings dropping to a two-year low in December.
Thursday’s claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased 25,000 to 1.73 million for the week ended Feb. 8. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims fell 5,250 to 1.72 million.