U.S. Jobless Claims Drop to Lowest Number in Past Five Weeks

The number of people in the U.S. filing for unemployment benefits dropped to its lowest level for the past five weeks, another indication of the endurance the labor market continues to have.

Jobless claims fell by over 1,000 to just more than 261,000 for the week that ended August 20, showed a reported released on Thursday by the Labor Department. Forecasts by economists averaged 265,000.

Companies are keeping workers, in particular those that have skills and experience, helping maintain claims near lows of four decades and the rate of joblessness under 5%.

That kind of durability, suggests the labor market is near full employment, would be amongst the different forces that would encourage policymakers at the Federal Reserve to increase interest rates prior to the end of 2016.

The reading for the prior week remained unrevised at just less than 262,000.

No states or territories of the U.S. estimated their jobless claims for last week and there was not anything unusual in the most recent figures said the Labor Department report.

Claims for Louisiana increased more than 1,850, which was the biggest increase besides Michigan, amidst recent flooding which has forced tens of thousands to relocate to hotels or shelters.

Filings have been less than 300,000 for a period of 77 consecutive weeks, which is the longest stretch in more than 46 years. That figure is typically consistent with a job market that is improving.

The number of individuals continuing to receive benefits fell by over 30,000 to more than 2.15 million during the week ending August 13.

The rate of unemployment amongst people who are eligible for the benefits remained steady at 1.6%. That data is reported with a lag time of one week.

The initial jobless claims are a reflection of firings for the week and a continued low level of applications typically has coincided with job gains that are faster.

A large number of layoffs might also reflect industry or company specific causes, like business restructuring or cost cutting instead of any underlying trends in the labor market.

Investors are searching for indications of the health of the biggest economy in the world for clues on the possible movement of interest rates.

Some officials at the Fed indicated that rates might rise as soon as September, and the odds for a September increase in rates are now up to 28% from last month’s 10%.