U.S. Displays Firm Job Market

Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits plunged last week to the lowest level since 1973 as workers affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma continued to return to their jobs, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department.

For the week ended Oct. 14, jobless claims decreased by 22,000 to 222,000 (compared to estimates of 240,000), the lowest since March 1973

Continuing claims fell by 16,000 to 1.89 million in week ended Oct. 7 (data reported with one-week lag)

Four-week average of initial claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, dropped to 248,250 from 257,750

The larger-than-projected decrease in claims probably reflected difficulty adjusting for the Columbus Day holiday. At the same time, the report showed further declines in claims in hurricane- affected states. The storms initially led to a spike in applications in Texas and the southeastern U.S. in late August and early September.

The department also said claims are at the lowest level in more than four decades, indicating employers have little desire to cut staffing levels amid a shortage of qualified workers.