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Sept. 19, 2019, 4:19 p.m. EDT

U.S. jobless claims inch up in mid-September

Layoffs remain remarkably low, even as manufacturing stumbles

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By Greg Robb, MarketWatch


Bloomberg Enlarge Image
Commuters exit the Wall Street subway station near the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York.

The numbers: One week after falling sharply, the number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits in mid-September inched higher, the government said Thursday.

Initial jobless claims, a rough way to measure layoffs, rose 2,000 to 208,000 in the seven days ended Sept. 14, the government said Thursday. Claims fell a revised 13,000 to 206,000, a nearly five-month low, in the prior week.

Economists polled by MarketWatch estimated new claims would total a seasonally adjusted 215,000.

The more stable monthly average of new claims fell by a smaller 750 to 212,250. The four-week average gives a more accurate read into labor-market conditions than the more volatile weekly number.

What happened: Actual or unadjusted jobless claims rose in only a few states like Texas, California, and North Carolina. If the strike by workers at General Motors Co. /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM -0.06% lasts long enough, there could be more layoffs at companies that make tires and seats and other products for the GM system, economists said.

Big picture: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday pointed to the strong labor market as a reason for optimism about the U.S. economy even as manufacturing is weak and businesses are increasingly uncertain because of the U.S.-China trade war. A majority of Fed officials think a modest adjustment to interest rates should keep the expansion going.

What are they saying: “Claims remain low, consistent with a still-solid trend in employment growth. While net employment growth depends on gross hiring as well as the pace of layoffs, and the trend in payrolls gains appears to have moderated a bit -- due to reduced hiring rather than increased firing -- major weakening in employment growth is invariably associated with an uptrend in claims,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.95%  and the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.39%  ended lower on Thursday as investors wrestled with the message from the Fed’s rate cut and Powell’s press conference.

/zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 36.17
-0.02 -0.06%
Volume: 6.86M
Oct. 18, 2019 6:30p
P/E Ratio
5.76
Dividend Yield
4.20%
Market Cap
$51.64 billion
Rev. per Employee
$849,994
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime
US : Dow Jones Global
26,770.20
-255.68 -0.95%
Volume: 293.61M
Oct. 18, 2019 5:08p
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime
US : S&P US
2,986.20
-11.75 -0.39%
Volume: 1.99B
Oct. 18, 2019 5:08p
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Greg Robb is a senior reporter for MarketWatch in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @grobb2000.

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