U.S. Unemployment Benefit Claims Rise to 4-Month High

November 21, 2018, 2:22 PM UTC

Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since late June, potentially reflecting holiday-related volatility in what otherwise has been a strong labor market.

Jobless claims increased by 3,000 to 224,000 in the week ended Nov. 17, Labor Department figures showed Wednesday. That compares with the 215,000 median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists and follows an upwardly revised 221,000 in the prior week. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, rose to 218,500.

Key Insights

Analysts may pay extra attention to the data because the week included the 12th of the month, which lines up with the survey period for the Labor Department’s November employment report, due Dec. 7. The results may also reflect volatility around the Veterans Day holiday, which was observed on the 12th, a Monday. Wildfires in California could be potentially boosting claims, as disasters are typically associated with a temporary increase. Even with the rise, applications for unemployment benefits are hovering around historically low levels, underscoring strong demand for workers that’s helping to increase wages. Such gains along with lower taxes are supporting consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy. Continuing claims, which are reported with a one-week lag, fell by 2,000 to 1.67 million in the week ended Nov. 10, the report showed. They are still near the lowest since 1973.

Get More

No states had estimated claims last week, according to the Labor Department. The jobless claims data, typically due on Thursday each week, were released a day early because of the national Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 22.While the weekly claims data tend to be volatile, economists watch these figures for a timely read on the labor market’s health.