The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, hitting their highest level in more than three months, likely as a cold snap kept some workers at home.
Figures released Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 11,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 261,000 for the week ended Jan. 6, the highest level since late September. Claims have now risen for four straight weeks.
The increase likely does not suggest a material shift in labour market conditions as claims data tend to be volatile during year-end holidays. Economists had forecast claims falling to 245,000 in the latest week.
A large part of the country was hit by frigid temperatures and snow during the first week of 2018, likely making it hard for some people to report for work. Unadjusted claims for New York increased by 27,170 last week, more than half of the national total.
Last week marked the 149th-straight week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with a strong labor 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%. Last week, the four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labour market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 9,000 to 250,750.