U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Edge Slightly Lower

The Labor Department released a report on Thursday unexpectedly showing a slight drop in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended February 18th.

The report said initial jobless claims edged down to 192,000, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 195,000.

The dip surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to inch up to 200,000 from the 194,000 originally reported for the previous week.

“The latest jobless claims data are consistent with a tight labor market and leave the Fed on track to raise interest rates again at its March meeting,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, Lead U.S. Economist at Oxford Economics.

“We expect jobless claims to trend higher as the economy slows in response and eventually enters a mild recession later this year,” she added. “But the rise may be muted compared to prior recessions as employers will be reluctant to lay off workers that have been difficult to find in the first place.”

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average crept up to 191,250, an increase of 1,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 189,750.

The report also showed continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, fell by 37,000 to 1.654 million in the week ended February 11th.

The four-week moving average of continuing claims also slipped to 1,668,750, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 1,671,750.

“After trending higher through the fall, continued claims have stabilized around 2019 levels,” said Vanden Houten.

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