U.S. Jobless Claims Fall to 5 Week-Low Despite Government Shutdown

January 17, 2019, 1:40 PM UTC

Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell to a five-week low, even amid a partial federal government shutdown.

Jobless claims declined by 3,000 to 213,000 in the week ended Jan. 12, below economist forecasts, Labor Department figures showed Thursday. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, declined to 220,750.

The latest decline in claims, which remain near a historically low level, is in line with a tight labor market as indicated in the monthly jobs report for December. At the same time, the partial federal-government shutdown—which affects one-quarter of agencies and is now the longest in U.S. history—is likely to cause some filings to increase in coming weeks.

Initial filings by federal employees jumped to 10,454 on an unadjusted basis in the week ended Jan.5, reflecting the second week of the shutdown that’s caused the furlough of thousands of workers. That’s up from 4,760 in the week ended Dec. 29 and a previously reported 929 in the week ended Dec. 22.

Details on claims by federal employees are reported with a lag, and analysts caution that it may take more time for the closures to be fully reflected in the report.

Continuing claims, which are reported with a one-week lag, increased to 1.737 million in the week ended Jan. 5. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.2% for a sixth week. The previous week’s filings were unrevised at 216,000.