Jobless Claims Surprise in U.S.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, in part as a backlog of applications from Puerto Rico continued to be processed, but the underlying trend continued to point to tightening labour market conditions.

Figures released by the U.S. Labor Department Thursday showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 249,000 for the week ended Nov. 11, the second straight weekly increase.

The claims backlog in Puerto Rico is being cleared as some of the infrastructure damaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria is restored. Data for the prior week was unchanged.

Economists had forecast claims falling to 235,000 in the latest week. A department official said while the backlog in Puerto Rico was being processed, claims-taking procedures continued to be severely disrupted in the Virgin Islands.

Last week marked the 141st straight week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with a strong stateside labour market. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labour market south of the border was smaller.