Jobless Claims Stateside Lower than Expected Last Week

Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell in number last week, dropping to the lowest level for those numbers in nearly 45 years as the stateside labour market tightened further, bolstering expectations of faster wage growth this year.

Data released Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department revealed initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased 9,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 221,000 for the week ended Feb. 3. Claims fell to 216,000 in mid-January, which was the lowest level since January 1973.

Economists had forecast claims rising to 232,000 in the latest week. Last week marked the 153rd straight week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with a strong labour market. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labour market was much smaller.

The labour market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at a 17-year low of 4.1%. The tighter labour market is starting to exert upward pressure on wage growth.

The department reported last week that average hourly earnings in the United States jumped 2.9% year-on-year in January, the largest gain since June 2009, after advancing 2.7% in December.