Unexpected drop in U.S. jobless claims shows sturdy job market

(Bloomberg) — Filings for jobless benefits in the U.S. unexpectedly settled back last week, underscoring a resilient labor market even as the Atlantic hurricane season introduces added volatility to the figures, Labor Department data showed Thursday.

Highlights of jobless claims (Week ended Sept. 9)

  • Jobless claims decreased by 14k to 284k (est. 300k, range of est. 240k to 465k)
  • Continuing claims dropped by 7k to 1.94m in week ended Sept. 2 (data reported with one-week lag)
  • Four-week average of initial claims rose to 263,250 -- highest since August 2016 -- from 250,250
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Key takeaways
Applications for unemployment insurance last week were estimated for Florida, Georgia and South Carolina -- states that were impacted by Hurricane Irma. Meanwhile, Texas reported an unadjusted 11,800 decrease in filings, following a Hurricane Harvey-related 51,683 surge in the week ended Sept. 2.

The spike was responsible for breaking total initial claims out of a subdued pattern. Harvey, which made landfall on Aug. 25, and Irma will probably continue to add to the swings in the jobless claims data.

Before the storm-related volatility, the overall labor market had been making progress. Employers remain averse to firing people as there’s a shortage of qualified workers. That has kept the underlying trend in jobless claims near the lowest level in more than four decades.

Other details

  • Unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.4% in week ended Sept. 2
  • Claims were also estimated for the Virgin Islands because of Irma