U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Fall, but Labour Market Trend Weakening

Those south of the border filing applications for unemployment benefits fell last week, but the four-week moving average rose to a more than one-year high, suggesting the labour market in the U.S. was slowing down.

Figures released Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 216,000 for the week ended Feb. 16.

But the department also said claims for California, Virginia, Hawaii and Puerto Rico were estimated last week because of Monday's Presidents' Day Holiday, which could have exaggerated the drop in claims.

Economists forecast claims falling to 229,000 in the latest 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 4,000 to 235,750 last week, the highest level since January 2018.

The claims data covered the survey week for the non-farm payrolls portion of February's employment report. The four-week average of claims rose by 15,250 between the January and February survey periods, suggesting a moderation in the pace of job growth this month. Payrolls jumped by 304,000 jobs in January, the most in 11 months, after increasing by 222,000 in December.