The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits was less than expected last week supporting the labor market continues to strengthen post hurricane disturbances.
According to the Labor Department, claims for state unemployment benefits rose by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 233,000 for the week ending Oct. 21. In the prior week, claims dropped to 223,000, the lowest level seen since March 1973.
Claims have dropped from the three-year high of almost 298,000 in the beginning of September in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The impact of the hurricanes has mostly found its way out of the data for the mainland United States. Although, Irma and Hurricane Maria continue to influence claims for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Last week was the 138th continuous week where claims stayed under 300,000, which relates to a strong labor market, and is the longest time period since 1970. The labor market is close to full employment, with the jobless rate at 4.2 percent, a 16-1/2-year low.
Last week, the four-week moving average of initial claims dropped 9,000 to 239,500, suggesting that a strong rebound in job growth during October after nonfarm payrolls had fallen by 33,000 jobs during September. The claims report also showed that the number of Americans still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid dropped 3,000 to 1.90 million for the week ending Oct. 14, which is the lowest level since December 1973.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims dropped 4,500 to 1.90 million, which is the lowest since January 1974. The four-week average of continuing claims decreased by 40,500 from the September and October survey weeks, which shows increased progress in the unemployment rate as the a slow moving labor market continues to fade away.