Jobless claims fall to 218,000 and show layoffs still very low


Initial applications for US unemployment benefits fell for the first time in three weeks, suggesting employers are still largely holding on to their workers.

Initial claims decreased by 9,000 to 218,000 in the week ended Feb. 3, according to Labor Department data out Thursday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 220,000.

Continuing claims, a proxy for the number of people receiving unemployment benefits, dropped to 1.87 million in the week that ended on Jan. 27.

The labor market has proved surprisingly robust in recent months, powering consumer spending. But recent high-profile job-cut announcements from companies including United Parcel Service Inc. and across the tech industry may signal slower demand for workers in the coming months.

Weekly claims tend to be volatile. The four-week moving average, which helps smooth short-term swings, increased to 212,250, the highest since late December.

The unadjusted data on initial claims, which does not take into account seasonal variations, fell by more than 31,000 to about 232,700. The drop was relatively broad-based across states, with Oregon and Ohio seeing large declines.

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