U.S. Jobless Claims Spike Less than Expected

Figures out Thursday morning reveal that the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased less than expected last week, suggesting the labour market stateside continued to tighten after recent hurricane-related disruptions.

The U.S. Labor Department declared initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 10,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 233,000 for the week ended Oct. 21, Claims fell to 223,000 in the prior week, which was the lowest level since March 1973.

Economists had forecast claims rising to 235,000 in the latest week. Those numbers have declined from an almost three-year high of 298,000 hit at the start of September in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which ravaged parts of Texas and Florida.

The impact of those storms has largely dropped out of the data for the mainland United States. But Irma and Hurricane Maria continue to impact claims for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, now virtually isolated because of the destruction of infrastructure due to the storms. A department official said they continued to estimate claims data for the islands.

Last week marked the 138th 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 smaller. The labour market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at more than a 16-year low of 4.2%.