The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week from a 44-year low, but remained at level consistent with a growing labor market.
Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., rose by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 243,000 in the week ended March 4, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 238,000 new claims last week. Claims for the week ended Feb. 25 were unrevised at 223,000. That was the lowest weekly level since March 1973.
Data on unemployment applications can be volatile from week to week. A more stable measure, the four-week moving average, increased by 2,250 last week to 236,500. That measure has also been trending near a four-decade low.
A low level of jobless claims typically coincides with steady hiring. U.S. employers added 227,000 jobs in January, the best gain since July 2016. Economists forecast employers added 197,000 jobs last month. The Labor Department will release the February jobs report on Friday.
Strong hiring could help reassure Federal Reserve policymakers that the economy is ready for an increase to the central bank’s benchmark interest rate when officials meet next week.
Jobless claims have remained below 300,000 for 105 consecutive weeks, the longest such streak since 1970–when the U.S. workforce and population were much smaller than they are today.
Continuing unemployment claims, reflecting benefits drawn by workers for longer than a week, decreased by 6,000 to 2,058,000 in the week ended Feb 25. Data on continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.