U.S. Jobless Claims Rise 2,000 to 279,000

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The FINANCIAL — The number of Americans seeking first-time unemployment benefits rose slightly last week but remained at a historically low level, suggesting the economy continues to steadily add jobs, according to Nasdaq.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits, a measure of layoffs across the U.S., climbed 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 279,000 in the week ended June 6, the Labor Department said on June 11. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 275,000 new claims.

The agency said 277,000 claims were filed in the prior week, replacing its initial estimate of 276,000.

Big swings are common in weekly jobless claims data. A broader measure designed to remove volatility—the four- week moving average of claims–increased 3,750 to 278,750 last week.

Economists typically view the labor market as healthy when claims fall below 400,000. Claims have consistently been below that level for most of the past four years. Over the past 14 weeks, they have been below 300,000, a level typically seen during robust expansions.

Initial claims peaked at 665,000 in March 2009, in the waning months of the recession, as unemployment soared toward 10%.

The persistently low level of layoffs offers hope that companies will continue to expand steadily into the summer.

Other measures suggest the labor market is firming. The economy added 280,000 jobs in May, the Labor Department said last week, the most since December. Over the prior 12 months, the economy added an average 251,000 jobs a month.

In another positive signal, the unemployment rate ticked up to 5.5% due to an increase in the number of Americans entering the labor force to search for jobs.

Still, the labor market is far from robust. Millions of working-age Americans remain stuck in part-time jobs, are unemployed, or are too discouraged to even search.

Also in Thursday’s report, the number of people filing continuing claims for unemployment benefits increased 61,000 to about 2.27 million in the week ended May 30. Continuing claims are reported with a one-week lag.

 

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