Jobless claims in U.S. decline for first time in three weeks

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(Bloomberg) — Filings for U.S. jobless benefits fell for the first time in three weeks, staying near a four-decade low as employers remain unwilling to part with workers.

Jobless claims declined by 3,000 to 258,000 in the week ended Oct. 22, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for 256,000. Continuing claims dropped to the lowest level since June 2000.

With the job market improving and the unemployment rate holding at or below 5% this year, fewer skilled candidates are available for openings, prompting managers to hold onto their staffers. Filings have been below 300,000 for 86 straight weeks — the longest streak since 1970 and a level typical for a healthy labor market.

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 245,000 to 270,000. The Labor Department revised the prior week’s reading to 261,000 from an initially reported 260,000.

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, increased to 253,000 from 252,000 in the prior week.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 15,000 to 2.04 million in the week ended Oct. 15. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5%. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

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

Though applications for unemployment insurance are near historic lows, there are other factors that have pushed claims down, including cuts in the duration of benefits and changes to claim-filing technology.

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