Jobless claims fall under 200,000 to lowest level in 16 months

 The labor market continued to show surprising resiliency in the early days of 2024, with initial jobless claims posting an unexpected drop last week.

Initial filings for unemployment insurance totaled 187,000 for the week ended Jan. 13, the lowest level since Sept. 24, 2022, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The total marked a 16,000 decline from the previous week and came in below the Dow Jones estimate of 208,000.

Labor strength has persisted despite attempts by the Federal Reserve to slow the economy, and the jobs market in particular, through a series of interest rate hikes. Central bank policymakers have linked the supply-demand mismatch between companies and the available labor pool as an ingredient that had sent inflation to its highest level in more than 40 years.

Along with the drop in weekly claims came an unexpected decline of 26,000 in continuing claims, which ran a week behind. The total for continuing claims hit 1.806 million, below the FactSet estimate of 1.83 million.

In other economic news Thursday, the Philadelphia Fed reported that its manufacturing index registered a reading of -10.6 for January, representing the difference between companies reporting growth against contraction. While the number marked an increase from the -12.8 posted in December, it was still below the Dow Jones estimate of -7.

The Philadelphia Fed gauge showed a decline in unfilled orders, delivery times, and inventories. The employment index improved somewhat but was still negative at -1.8 while the prices paid and received measures both eased from December.

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