U.S. jobless claims fall to 5-week low of 236,000

The numbers: Initial U.S. jobless claims, a way to measure layoffs, fell by 2,000 to 236,000 in the seven days ended Dec 2. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast claims to total 240,000.
The more stable monthly average of claims slipped by 750 to 241,500, the government said Thursday.
The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, declined by 52,000 to 1.91 million.
What happened: The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits each week has settled around 230,000, reflecting the strongest U.S. labor market since Bill Clinton was president.
New claims are still elevated in Puerto Rico a few months after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria, but it’s only had a tiny effect on overall U.S. claims.
Big picture: Excellent. Unemployment is at a 17-year low and the biggest problem in the labor market is a shortage of skilled workers, not a lack of new jobs. Job openings are near a record high and many companies are hiring.
Market reaction: Muted. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 index showed little bounce in premarket action and then edged higher at the open.
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