First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits pulled back by much more than expected in the week ended December 4, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday.
The report said initial jobless claims slid to 184,000, a decrease of 43,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 227,000.
Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 215,000 from the 222,000 originally reported for the previous week.
With the bigger than expected decrease, jobless claims dropped to their lowest level since hitting 182,000 in September of 1969.
The less volatile four-week moving average also fell to 218,750, a decrease of 21,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 240,000, hitting its lowest level since hitting 215,250 in March of 2020.
Meanwhile, the report said continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, rose by 38,000 to 1.992 million in the week ended November 27th.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims still declined to a new pandemic-era low 2,027,500, a decrease of 54,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 2,081,750.
“Seasonal adjustment factors continue to wreak havoc with the data, and the claims figures may remain volatile through the holiday season,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, Lead Economist at Oxford Economics.
She added, “Looking past the noise, we think claims will eventually hover more consistently around pre-pandemic levels of 220k, assuming the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has only a moderate negative impact on the economy.”
Last Friday, the Labor Department released a separate report showing employment in the U.S. increased by much less than expected in the month of November.
The report said non-farm payroll employment rose by 210,000 jobs in November after surging by an upwardly revised 546,000 jobs in October.
Economists had expected employment to spike by 550,000 jobs compared to the jump of 531,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.
Despite the much weaker than expected job growth, the unemployment rate slid to 4.2 percent in November from 4.6 percent in October. Economists had expected the unemployment rate to edge down to 4.5 percent.
With the much bigger than expected decrease, the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since hitting 3.5 percent in February of 2020.
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