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Jobless claims jump, but one-month average lowest since 2000

Jobless claims
Employees wait to greet job seekers during a Kroger Co. Hiring Fair at one of the company’s grocery stores in Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 8.
(Luke Sharrett / Bloomberg)

Initial claims for jobless benefits jumped last week from a post-Great Recession low, but the average over the past four weeks was the lowest since 2000 for the volatile but closely watched barometer of the labor market.

About 283,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, up 17,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised level, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Economists had forecast claims would rise to 285,000 after a sharp drop the previous week to the lowest point since April 2000. Even with the increase, they said, new claims remained well below 300,000, indicating that the job market is continuing to grow moderately.

Jobless claims can fluctuate widely from week to week. So economists often focus on the less-volatile four-week average, which also has fallen to a 14-year low.

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There were an average of 281,000 new claims each week over the previous month, the fewest since May 2000, the Labor Department said. The figure was down 3,000 from the prior week’s four-week level, which had been the previous 14-year low.

Thursday’s data point to another strong jobs report for October, which would add pressure on the Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates.

“The labor market is still strong, and any slack remaining is just a figment of the Federal Reserve’s imagination,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Union Bank. “The economy is stronger than you think.”

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits through Oct. 11, the latest data available, dropped to 2.35 million, the Labor Department said. That was the fewest since December 2000.

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