WASHINGTON -- The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell unexpectedly last week for a fourth-straight week, suggesting that a resilient labor market at the start of the year might keep the U.S. economy from sliding into recession.
Initial claims for jobless benefits fell 1,000 to 301,000 after seasonal adjustments in the week ended Jan. 19, the Labor Department said Thursday. That marked the fourth-straight weekly decline to a four-month low. Wall Street economists had expected a sharp increase of 19,000.
There were no special factors, a Labor Department analyst said. The four-week average of new claims, which economists use to smooth out weekly volatility, tumbled 14,000 to 314,750, the lowest level since Oct. 6. Claims for the week ending Jan. 12 were revised up 1,000 to 302,000.
This would seem to counter all the talk about a bad jobs market. Generally, when this number is at or above 350,000, I get worried about job creation. But when this number has been closer to 300,000 in the past, the job market has been fine. Weekly claims are volatile though so we'll have to wait for more information to see if this is a trend.