Workplace Issues

Jobless Claims Rise; Labor Market Stays Tight

Despite operating at or near full employment, the economy does not show signs of overheating.
William SprouseJune 22, 2017

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 3,000 for the week ended June 17, but the number of unemployed people remains consistent with a tight labor market, according to the Department of Labor.

It was the 120th consecutive week that total claims have been below 300,000, the threshold associated with a strong labor market, Reuters reports, making this the longest stretch that claims have remained below that level since 1970.

The announcement follows by a week the decision by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates by a quarter percent. It was the second time in three months the Fed has raised rates. The Federal Open Market Committee has signaled it will likely raise rates one more time this year.

The DOL said the number of Americans filing was 241,000 for the week, up from 238,000 the week before. The four-week moving average of claims rose 1,500 to 244,750 last week, the highest since early April. The moving average is considered a better indicator of the state of the labor market than the claims figure.

Overall, the unemployment rate fell in May to 4.3%, a 16-year low. Many economists think the labor market is at or near full employment.

“Our findings suggest that the labor market has already slightly overshot full employment,” Goldman Sachs economist Daan Struyven said in a report for clients, according to

At full employment, under this economic definition, available workers who don’t have jobs are unemployed for “frictional” reasons, meaning, for example, that they’re between jobs or that employers have not yet located them as the qualified applicants they are.

Goldman Sachs estimates that the long-run sustainable unemployment rate is 4.5%, according to Struyven. Though the uncertainty around that forecast is “large.” The number could be as low as 4.25%.

“We see some room for changes in business dynamism and demographics to reduce the longer-run sustainable unemployment rate further,” Struyven wrote.

Median wages have grown at 3.4% according to the Atlanta Fed’s wage tracker, but that growth has been slowing.