Jobless claims in U.S. decrease to lowest level in three weeks

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(Bloomberg) — Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, validating the Federal Reserve’s view of a vigorous labor market.

Jobless claims fell by 4,000 to a three-week low of 254,000 in the period ended Dec. 10, a report from the Labor Department showed Thursday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey called for 255,000. Continuing claims increased.

Companies are hesitant to dismiss workers as tight labor conditions and steady economic growth place a premium on skilled and experienced employees. Solid job growth and falling unemployment helped persuade Fed policy makers to raise interest rates this week for the first time in a year.

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

Claims have stayed below the 300,000 level for 93 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since 1970 and typically consistent with an improving job market.

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey for weekly jobless claims ranged from 245,000 to 270,000, after an unrevised 258,000 in the prior period.

The four-week moving average increased to 257,750 last week, from 252,500.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 11,000 to 2.02 million in the week ended Dec. 3. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

Fed policy makers on Wednesday raised their benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points, saying still-low inflation expectations have risen “considerably” as the labor market heats up, according to the central bank’s post-meeting statement.

Even with the adjustment in borrowing costs, the Fed said that the “stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting some further strengthening in labor market conditions.”

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