Jobless claims fall to almost a 44-year low

Jobless claims fall to almost a 44-year low

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to near a 44-year low last week, pointing to further tightening of the labor market even as economic growth appears to have remained moderate in the first quarter.

The Labor Department says unemployment claims dropped by 19,000 from 242,000 the previous week to the lowest level since March 1973 when Richard Nixon was president. The median forecast called for 245,000 applications.

Economists' estimates in the Bloomberg survey for initial jobless claims ranged from 230,000 to 260,000. The big picture here is that claims have now been below 250K - the floor of the trend late previous year - in eight of the past nine weeks, and are now comfortably at their lowest level ever when adjusted for population growth.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by a stronger-than-expected 227,000 in January from the prior month, the Labor Department reported last month, and the unemployment rate was 4.8%.

Meanwhile, the four-week moving average came in at 234,250, down 6,250 from the previous week's average, which was revised lower by 500 to 240,500. The 161-week period that ended in April 1970 was the longest such streak in records back to 1967.

Peter Boockvar of The Lindsey Group believes companies are holding off on firings, not just becuase of the tight labor market, but also because they are waiting for more clarity on tax policies from the Trump administration.

The advanced seasonally-adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.5 percent for the week ending on February 18, which is unchanged from the previous week's rate.

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