U.S. filings for unemployment benefits fell to a five-week low, suggesting tightening in a labor market already operating near full capacity, Labor Department figures showed Feb. 22.
Highlights of Jobless Claims for the Week Ended Feb. 17
• Jobless claims decreased 7,000 to 222,000 (estimated 230,000).
• Continuing claims fell by 73,000 to 1.875 million, a six-week low, in week ended Feb. 10 (data reported with one-week lag); biggest decline since mid-2015.
• Four-week average of initial claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, fell to 226,000 from the prior week’s 228,250.
Claims are near the lowest level in almost 45 years, a reminder that employers are holding on to existing staff given shortages of qualified workers. Applications below the 300,000 tally are considered consistent with a healthy labor market. They’ve been under that figure every week since March 2015.
Analysts may pay extra attention to the Feb. 22 figures because they encompass the 12th of the month, the reference period for the Labor Department surveys that produce the monthly employment figures. The report for February is due March 9.
• Prior week’s reading was revised down to 229,000 from 230,000.
• Unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits fell to 1.3% from 1.4%.
• Michigan and Illinois showed the biggest declines in unadjusted claims in latest week.
California, Hawaii, Maine, Puerto Rico, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming had estimated claims last week, according to the Labor Department.
With assistance by Jordan Yadoo, and Sophie Caronello