Fewer Americans than forecast file for unemployment insurance

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(Bloomberg) — Fewer Americans than forecast filed last week applications for unemployment benefits, underscoring a vibrant labor market.

Jobless claims rose by 5,000 to 239,000 in the week ended Feb. 11, a report from the Labor Department showed Thursday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for 245,000 applications. Continuing claims fell slightly.

The low number of applications mirrors a tight labor market in which demand for skilled and experienced workers is at a premium. Near historic lows, first-time claims have been below 300,000 for the longest period since 1970.

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey for initial jobless claims ranged from 225,000 to 255,000. The figure for the previous week was unrevised at 234,000.

The four-week moving average edged up to 245,250 last week from 244,750.

No states estimated jobless claims last week, and there was nothing unusual in the figures, according to the Labor Department.

The latest tally marked 102 straight weeks of claims below 300,000, the level economists consider consistent with a healthy labor market. The 161-week period that ended in April 1970 was the longest such streak in records back to 1967.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits fell by 3,000 to 2.08 million in the week ended Feb. 4. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5%. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

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