The number of Americans making initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell sharply to a 43-year low last week as the labor market continued to strengthen.
The Labor Department said Thursday that initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, dropped 19,000 in the week ended Nov. 12 to a seasonally adjusted 235,000, the lowest level since November 1973. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 250,000 new claims last week.
Jobless applications had increased modestly in October, but have now stayed below the 300,000 threshold normally associated with a strong jobs market for 89 straight weeks, the longest period since 1970.
Rob Martin, an economist at Barclays Bank, said the data points “to a pickup in employment growth relative to the past several months,” when job gains have been steady if unspectacular.
“On the whole, we view incoming claims data as very supportive of further improvement in labor market conditions this year,” he said in a note to clients.
As MarketWatch reports, “Companies have ramped up hiring over the past five years, and many complain they cannot find enough skilled workers to quickly fill open positions.”
Last week’s jobless claims data included the Veterans Day holiday and claims tend to fall during weeks including a holiday. But the four-week moving average of claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 6,500 to 253,500 last week.
Thursday’s report also showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid 66,000 to 1.98 million in the week ended Nov. 5, the lowest reading since April 2000. The four-week average of continuing claims fell 19,250 to 2.02 million, the lowest level since June 2000.
Jobless claims don’t necessarily correlate to employment growth, the WSJ noted. Since 2014, when monthly job gains averaged above 250,000, the pace has slowed to an average of 181,000 so far this year, even as claims have hovered near historic lows.