Initial jobless claims surprised to the downside in the January 12 week. Claims declined 3,000 to 216,000, reading their lowest level since 206,000 in the December 8, 2018 week. It would appear that retail and transportation are letting go fewer holiday workers than anticipated, as well as no sign of an immediate influx of claimants related to the partial federal government shutdown. Contractors may be opting to continue to pay idled workers to avoid losing them in the short-term or reassign them to other projects while the closure lasts. However, every day workers classified as non-essential are prevented from doing their jobs and contracts are unpaid represents a loss and the situation will not continue indefinitely.
Only one state — West Virginia — estimated claims in the week. The Labor Department cited no special factors in the report.
Continuing claims in the January 5 week were up 18,000 to 1.737 million, an increase that reflects the uptick in new filings in the December 29 week. If the level is higher in recent weeks, it is still not far above the decades-lows of October 2018. The insured rate of unemployment was at 1.2% for a seventh week in a row, off historic lows but still consistent with a tight labor market.
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