Jobless claims jump by the most in almost 2 years

  • The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits jumped by the most since 2017 last week.
  • Thursday’s results likely reflect seasonal noise rather than a trend in the labour market.
  • The four-week moving average of initial jobless claims, which is less volatile than the weekly figure, was 206,000 last week.
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The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits jumped by the most in nearly two years last week, likely reflecting seasonal noise as the labour market remains tight.

Initial jobless claims rose by 37,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 230,000 in the week that ended April 2, the Labour Department said Thursday, the highest since 2017. Economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal had expected 200,000 claims last week.

Economists said Thursday’s results point to seasonal noise rather than an underlying trend in the labour market. Claims had dropped to their lowest level since December 1969 at the beginning of April.

“Holidays and possibly the strike by grocery store workers in New England could have temporarily boosted claims,” said Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Analytics.

Even with growth expected to slow in the first quarter, the unemployment rate has remained near five-decade lows at 3.8%. The four-week moving average of initial jobless claims, which is less volatile than the weekly figure, was 206,000 last week.

“This is a great time to keep your eyes focused on the 4-week moving average, which remains quite low,” said Josh Wright, the chief economist at iCIMS, a recruiting software company. “For now, it still appears that the labour market and the U.S. consumer are in good shape overall, despite softness in manufacturing.”

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