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Jan. 30, 2020, 10:32 a.m. EST

New U.S. jobless claim fall slightly to 216,000

Initial jobless claims experience usual post-holiday ups and downs

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By Jeffry Bartash, MarketWatch


Getty Images
Veterans attend jobs fair in Los Angeles. The U.S. unemployment rate sits at a 50-year low of 3.5% after years of steady hiring.

The numbers: The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits in late January fell slightly and gave no hint of rising layoffs, indicating the labor market remains very robust.

Initial jobless claims declined by 7,000 to 216,000 in the seven days ended Jan. 25, the government said Thursday. The figures are seasonally adjusted.

Unusually, new claims in the prior week were revised up by a large 12,000 to 223,000. Big revision like that are rare but can happen sometimes around the holiday season.

The more stable monthly average of jobless claims that filters out the weekly ups and downs fell by 1,750 to 214,500.

New unemployment claims are seen as a rough measure of how many people are losing their jobs. They briefly fell under 200,000 last April to a 50-year low and have hovered in the low 200,000s since then.

Read: Share of union workers in the U.S. falls to a record low in 2019

What happened: Raw or unadjusted jobless claims gyrated sharply in the past few weeks in California and several other states, likely reflecting the typical changes in employment after the holiday season when temporary workers are let go.

Broader employment trends are little changed: New claims are lower now than they were compared to the same week one year ago.

More evidence: The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits fell by 44,000 to 1.7 million to return close to postrecession lows.

Big picture: The U..S. economy has been growing for a record 10 1/2 years and there’s little evidence that things are about to go sour. Claims usually — but not always — start to rise steadily a few months before the economy heads south.

What they are saying? “Jobless claims fell sharply last week but the previous week’s total was revised up even more sharply. Regardless, the level is low and the markets are tight,” said economist Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +1.20% and S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.83% declined in Thursday trades. Stocks had been trading at records until an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in China put financial markets on edge.

The 10-year Treasury yield /zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD10Y +4.65% slipped to 1.57% as investors sought the perceived safety of government bonds.

/zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime
US : Dow Jones Global
27,781.70
+329.04 +1.20%
Volume: 455.15M
Sept. 30, 2020 5:20p
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/zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime
US : S&P US
3,363.00
+27.53 +0.83%
Volume: 2.62B
Sept. 30, 2020 5:20p
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/zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime
add Add to watchlist BX:TMUBMUSD10Y
BX : Tullett Prebon
0.68
+0.03 +4.65%
Volume: 0.00
Sept. 30, 2020 4:57p
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Jeffry Bartash is a reporter for MarketWatch in Washington.

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