First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits jumped by much more than expected in the week ended December 7th, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday.
The report said initial jobless claims surged up to 252,000, an increase of 49,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 203,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge up to 213,000.
With the much bigger than expected increase, jobless claims reached their highest level since hitting 257,000 in September of 2017.
However, Michael Pearce, Senior U.S. Economist at Capital Economics, said the spike in jobless claims “most likely reflects seasonal adjustment problems around the Thanksgiving holiday rather than a genuine sudden deterioration in labor market conditions.”
The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average crept up to 224,000, an increase of 6,250 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 217,750.
Meanwhile, the report said continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, fell by 31,000 to 1.667 million in the week ended November 30th.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims also dipped to 1,676,000, a decrease of 6,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 1,682,250.
Last Friday, the Labor Department released a separate report showing much stronger than expected job growth in the month of November.
The report said non-farm payroll employment soared by 266,000 jobs in November after climbing by an upwardly revised 156,000 jobs in October.
Economists had expected an increase of about 180,000 jobs compared to the addition of 128,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.
With the stronger than expected job growth, the unemployment rate edged down to 3.5 percent in November from 3.6 percent in October. The unemployment rate was expected to remain unchanged.
The unexpected decrease pulled the unemployment rate back down to the nearly 50-year low originally hit in September.
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