Jobless Claims Fall in States After Two Upward Weeks

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week after two straight weekly increases, pointing to continued steady job growth after recent hurricane-related disruptions.

Figures released Wednesday (a day early with Thanksgiving on the horizon) by the U.S. Labor Department showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 13,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 239,000 for the week ended Nov. 18, reversing the prior week's increase.

Claims had risen in recent weeks as a backlog of applications from Puerto Rico was processed following repairs to infrastructure damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. A department official said claims-taking procedures continued to be disrupted in the Virgin Islands.

Economists had forecast claims falling to 240,000 in the latest week.

Last week marked the 142nd 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 a 17-year low of 4.1%. 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 1,250 to 239,750 last week