US unemployment claims fall to lowest number in 44 years

A report released by the Labor Department on Thursday showed first-time claims for USA unemployment benefits fell by much more than anticipated in the week ended October 14th, with claims sliding to their lowest level in over forty years.

The Labor Department said Thursday that claims for jobless aid dropped by 22,000 to 222,000, fewest since March 1973.

The Federal Reserve reported this week that USA labor markets were experiencing "widespread" labor shortages, with employers struggling to fill open positions, particularly in transportation and construction - but wage increases have been notably stagnant.

The Labor Department said claims taking procedures continued to be severely disrupted in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as a result of power outages and infrastructure damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Initial claims are an advance indicator of the pace of layoffs and the overall strength of the labor market, since some people need government benefits to sustain themselves right after they lose a job.

Bloomberg had a consensus estimate of 240,000 and Dow Jones (Wall Street Journal) showed a consensus of 239,000 for last week's claims. Claims numbers have remained below 300,000 a week for more than two and a half years. The four-week moving average, a steadier measure, dropped 9,500 to 248,250 last week, after hitting a more than one-year peak in mid-September.

Continuing claims, which lag by a week, fell 16,000 for the week ending October 7 to a new multi-decade low at 1.888 million. "The last time unemployment was that low, in 1969, core CPI inflation was 6%". The hemorrhaged jobs are likely a reflection of hurricane-related economic disruptions, though Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands aren't included in national employment data.

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