The U.S. economy ended the year on a high note, with labor market strength showing up in falling jobless claims as the world’s biggest economy stands just weeks away from its longest expansion ever.
The Labor Department said the number of Americans filing first-time claims for state unemployment benefits fell by 9,000 to 274,000 in the holiday-shortened week ending Dec. 25 from a revised 283,000 in the prior week.
That sent the four-week average of new claims tumbling to a 36-year low of 279,750.
In a separate report, the Chicagoland Business Barometer fell to a seasonally adjusted 54.6 in December from 56.8 in November, according to the National Assn. of Purchasing Managers. A reading above 50 is indicative of a strong manufacturing sector.
“These reports are consistent with what we already knew--that economic growth remains robust through the end of the year and into next year,” said James Annable, chief economist at WingSpanBank.com.
If, as expected, the expansion continues into February, the U.S. economy will have grown for 107 straight months--a record. The longest expansion to date was 106 months in the 1960s, helped in part by the Vietnam War buildup.
Meantime, the private Conference Board said the volume of help-wanted ads dipped only slightly in November, indicating continuing strong demand for workers.
“The basic message is that the labor market continues to be red hot and, if anything, it seems to be tightening further,” said Robert Dederick, economic consultant at Northern Trust Corp. of Chicago.
The latest week was the 12th in a row in which jobless claims were under 300,000. New claims have been fluctuating all year on either side of the key 300,000 mark, an indication of a vigorous job market.