Filings for U.S. jobless benefits fell to 246,000 last week

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(Bloomberg) — Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, marking 100 straight weeks of claims below 300,000. That’s the longest streak since 1970 and indicates a healthy job market.

Jobless claims declined by 14,000 to 246,000 in the week ended Jan. 28, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 250,000. Continuing claims also fell.

The sustained trend of historically low jobless claims shows businesses are retaining existing employees as they face a shortage of skilled workers amid a tight labor market. Employers also continue to hire at a solid pace: Monthly data due from the Labor Department on Friday are projected to show the economy added more jobs in January than the prior month.

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey for initial jobless claims ranged from 240,000 to 265,000. The figure for the previous week, which included the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, was revised to 260,000 from an initially reported 259,000.

The latest stretch below 300,000 claims ranks behind the record 161-week period that ended in April 1970. The statistics began in 1967. Economists consider such a level consistent with a healthy labor market.

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

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits fell by 39,000 to 2.06 million in the week ended Jan. 21. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

The four-week moving average increased to 248,000 last week, from 245,750.

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