Unemployment benefit claims fall to lowest weekly level since September


Minneapolis
CNN

Around 204,000 people applied for first-time unemployment benefits last week, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s down from the previous week’s total jobless claims and only slightly below the pre-pandemic weekly average of 218,000.

Continuing claims, which are filed by people who have received unemployment benefits for more than one week, decreased to 1.69 million for the week ended December 24, from 1.72 million.

Thursday’s data indicates continued resilience in the labor market despite inflation-fighting efforts by the Federal Reserve intended to cool the economy — and which would ordinarily have a negative impact on the job market, resulting in layoffs.

Many economists and investors fear the Fed’s aggressive actions, which have included seven-straight jumbo rate hikes, could throw the economy into a recession. But so far, the labor market appears impervious.

“This is one reason to be optimistic the economy could skirt a recession,” Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi told CNN last week. “Without mass layoffs, it’s unlikely consumers will stop spending and the economy will suffer a downturn.”

Economists were expecting 225,000 initial claims, according to a consensus estimate from Refinitiv.

Weekly jobless claims are volatile — especially around the holidays — and frequently subject to revision.

A separate report from payroll company ADP reported Thursday morning that the private sector added 235,000 jobs in December, a tally that landed well above economists’ expectations of 150,000.

Consumer-facing industries, notably leisure and hospitality; and small- and medium-sized businesses drove the surge in new jobs, ADP reported. Large establishments, those with 500 employees or more, shed 151,000 jobs during the last month of the year, according to the report.

Attention now turns to the Labor Department’s monthly employment report on Friday, which is expected to show that the US economy added 200,000 jobs during December, capping a year of extraordinary job growth.

—CNN’s Matt Egan contributed to this report. This story is developing and will be updated.

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