U.S. Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Rise To Eight-Week High

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First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly increased in the week ended January 8th, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday.

The report said initial jobless claims rose to 230,000, an increase of 23,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 207,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 200,000.

With the unexpected increase, jobless claims reached their highest level since hitting 270,000 in the week ended November 13th.

"The rise in claims likely reflects an increase in layoffs due to the surge in Covid cases, as seasonal adjustment factors last week worked in favor of a lower headline claims figure," said Nancy Vanden Houten, Lead Economist at Oxford Economics.

"Claims may remain elevated in the near term, but we expect initial claims will gravitate back to the 200k level once the Omicron wave passes," she added. "Encouragingly, there are indications that cases from the Omicron variant are peaking."

The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average also crept up to 210,750, an increase of 6,250 from the previous week's unrevised average of 204,500.

Meanwhile, the report said continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, tumbled by 194,000 to 1.559 million in the week ended January 1st.

With the notable decrease, continuing claims dropped to their lowest level since hitting 1.556 million in the week ended June 2, 1973.

The four-week moving average of continuing claims also fell by 77,000 to 1,721,500 from the previous week's revised average of 1,798,500, hitting the lowest level since March of 2020.

Last Friday, the Labor Department released a separate report showing employment in the U.S. increased by much less than expected in the month of December.

The report said non-farm payroll employment rose by 199,000 jobs in December after climbing by an upwardly revised 249,000 jobs in November.

Economists had expected employment to jump by 400,000 jobs compared to the addition of 210,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

Despite the weaker than expected job growth, the unemployment rate slid to 3.9 percent in December from 4.2 percent in November. The unemployment rate was expected to edge down to 4.1 percent.

With the bigger than expected decrease, the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since hitting 3.5 percent in February of 2020.

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