The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased less than expected last week, suggesting the labour market continued to tighten after recent hurricane-related disruptions.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 233,000 for the week ended October 21, the Labour Department said on Thursday. Claims fell to 223,000 in the prior week, which was the lowest level since March 1973.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 235,000 in the latest week. They have declined from an almost three-year high of 298,000 hit at the start of September in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which ravaged parts of Texas and Florida.
The impact of Harvey and Irma has largely dropped out of the data for the mainland United States. But Irma and Hurricane Maria continue to impact claims for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, now virtually isolated because of the destruction of infrastructure due to the storms. A Labour Department official said they continued to estimate claims data for the islands.
Last week marked the 138th straight week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with a strong labor market. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labour market was smaller. The labour market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at more than a 16-1/2-year low of 4.2 percent.—Agencies