Initial Jobless Claims in U.S. Rose to 269,000 Last Week

How Close Is the U.S. to Full Employment?

Applications for unemployment benefits in the U.S. rose last week, maintaining a see-saw pattern around four-decade lows that shows persistent strength in the labor market.

Jobless claims climbed by 9,000 to 269,000 in the period ended Nov. 28, matching the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey, a Labor Department report showed Thursday. Filings are hovering just above the 255,000 level reached in July, the lowest since the 1970s.

Companies are reluctant to dismiss workers as the labor market tightens, a development Federal Reserve policy makers are monitoring as they consider raising their benchmark interest rate. A greater sense of job security may help Americans feel more comfortable spending during the holidays, which would provide a much-needed boost to growth.

“Claims are low and people’s expectations of the labor market are improving,” Joe Carson, director of global economic research at AllianceBernstein LP in New York, said before the report. “Everything says that labor markets are tightening.”

Estimates of 41 economists in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 255,000 to 278,000.

While there was nothing unusual in the data, claims for Louisiana were estimated because the state was switching to a new system for handling applications, according to the Labor Department.

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, dropped to 269,250 from 271,000 the week before.

Continuing Claims

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 6,000 to 2.16 million in the week ended Nov. 21.

In that same period, the unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.6 percent, where it’s been since mid-September, the report showed.

Jobless claims have been bouncing around historically low levels that economists say are consistent with robust job growth. The employment report, scheduled for release Friday, may show that companies added 200,000 workers in November after a gain of 271,000 the prior month.

Fed policy makers will use jobs data to help them decide whether they should raise their benchmark interest rate for the first time since 2006. Though inflation remains subdued, Fed officials have noted stronger labor markets as a reason to begin reining in their accommodative stance on monetary policy.

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