Jobless Claims in U.S. Increased to Six-Month High Last Week

The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits rose more than expected to a six-month high last week, potentially reflecting seasonal swings in a still-healthy labor market.

Jobless claims increased by 21,000 to 275,000 in the week ended Dec. 17, a report from the Labor Department showed Thursday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for 257,000. Continuing claims also climbed.

Filings tend to be more volatile around the holidays, and the broader trend shows the labor market remains competitive, with companies reluctant to let workers go amid an economy that’s growing at a moderate pace. For almost two years, claims have been below the 300,000 level that economists consider consistent with a healthy labor market.

Before seasonal adjustments, claims rose by about 10,300 to 315,600 last week, the report showed.

No states estimated jobless claims last week, and there was nothing unusual in the figures, according to the Labor Department.

Seasonally adjusted claims have stayed below the 300,000 level for 94 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since 1970.

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey for weekly jobless claims ranged from 249,000 to 275,000, after an unrevised 254,000 in the prior period.

The four-week moving average increased to 263,750 last week, from 257,750.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 15,000 to 2.04 million in the week ended Dec. 10. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

Fed officials last week raised their benchmark interest rate by a quarter percentage point, saying inflation expectations have increased and the labor market is strengthening, according to the central bank’s post-meeting statement.

— With assistance by Sophie Caronello

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