Initial Jobless Claims Fell Last Week by More Than Forecast

A worker welds a lawnmower frame at a factory in Coatesville, Ind. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

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Applications for U.S. state unemployment insurance fell last week by more than forecast, continuing an overall downward trend as the labor market recovery continues.

Initial unemployment claims decreased by 17,000 to 232,000 in the week ended Feb. 19, Labor Department data showed Feb. 24. The median estimate called for 235,000 applications in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Continuing claims for state benefits fell to 1.48 million in the week ended Feb. 12, a pandemic low.

The decrease in claims is consistent with a labor market that’s back on track after the omicron-induced surge last month. Demand for labor still far outstrips supply, and more Americans should be eager to go back to work as COVID-19 cases fall and restrictions ease.

The data come ahead of next week’s monthly employment report, which is currently forecast to show the U.S. added 400,000 jobs in February.

On an unadjusted basis, initial claims decreased to 214,873 last week.

Some of the states that posted outsize increases in the prior period, including Missouri and Ohio, declined notably last week.

A separate report Feb. 24 showed the government revised its estimate for fourth-quarter growth up slightly. The economy expanded an annualized 7%, reflecting a sizable boost from inventories. Consumer spending advanced at a 3.1% pace, softer than previously reported and falling short of most economists’ estimates.

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