A new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that first-time claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week by 11K to 261K. That was the highest headline reading since September, but perhaps only a temporary setback related to the extra staff brought on by retailers ahead of the holiday shopping season being let go.
More importantly, initial jobless claims have held below 300K for 149 weeks in a row, one of the longest streaks on record and more impressive now since the workforce is much larger. Further, the number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits for longer than a single week, i.e. continued claims, has maintained its long-term downtrend and ended 2017 at the lowest level in nearly half a century. Altogether, incoming claims data remain consistent with an overall healthy labor market, and a shortage of skilled workers that is making companies hesitant to let employees go.
Sources: Econoday, U.S. DoL, ZH, Bloomberg, FRBSLPost author: Charles Couch