Select Page

The numbers: The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits last week inched up to 205,000, indicating layoffs remain very low during the holiday season and jobs aren’t especially hard to find.

New jobless claims rose 2,000 from a revised 203,000 in the prior week, the government said Thursday. Economists had forecast new claims in the week ending Dec. 16 to total 215,000.

Although layoffs are historically low, some businesses have cut back on hiring. The labor market is still quite robust, however.

Key details: New jobless claims fell in 39 states and territories that report these figures to the federal government. They rose in just 14 states.

The number of people collecting unemployment benefits in the U.S., meanwhile, was basically unchanged at 1.87 million. A gradual rise in these so-called continuing claims over the past year is a sign it’s taking longer for people to find new jobs.

New jobless claims tend to jump up and down around the holiday shopping that stretches from Thanksgiving until late January because of temporary hiring. Economists say the figures should be treated with caution when trying to glean trends in the labor market.

Big picture: The economy appears to have lost some steam since a blowout third quarter as higher borrowing costs dampen growth.

The labor market is a big oasis of strength, however. As long as businesses avoid mass layoffs and most people continue to work, the U.S. is likely to avoid a recession.

Looking ahead: “Initial claims remain at levels consistent with relatively few layoffs,” said lead U.S. economist Nancy Vanden Houten of Oxford Economics.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
and S&P 500
rose in Thursday trading.

Share it on social networks