U.S. Jobless Claims Drop Slightly More Than Expected To 232,000

A report released by the Labor Department on Thursday showed first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by slightly more than expected in the week ended February 19th.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims dropped to 232,000, a decrease of 17,000 from the previous week’s revised level 249,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to dip to 235,000 from the 248,000 originally reported for the previous week.

“We expect initial claims to continue to grind back toward 200k as the impact of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus fades,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, Lead U.S. Economist at Oxford Economics.

She added, “Layoffs are expected to be minimal in a tight labor market where employers continue to struggle to attract workers.”

The report showed the less volatile four-week moving average also edged down to 236,250, a decrease of 7,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 243,500.

Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, also slid by 112,000 to 1.476 million in the week ended February 12th, hitting the lowest level since March of 1970.

The four-week moving average of continuing claims also fell to a nearly 50-year low of 1,576,000, a decrease of 49,000 from the previous week’s revised average or 1,625,000.

“Continued claims have been consistently below the pre-pandemic average of 1.71 million and are expected to remain at low levels as health conditions improve and more workers return to the labor market,” said Vanden Houten.

Next Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its more closely watched report on the employment situation in the month of February.

Economists currently expect employment to increase by 400,000 jobs in February after climbing by 467,000 jobs in January, while the unemployment rate is expected to edge down to 3.9 percent from 4.0 percent.

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