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First Cut: Initial jobless claims move lower in August 17 week

New filings for unemployment benefits moved lower by 12,000 to 209,000, more than retracing the 10,000 increase to a revised 221,000 in the prior week (previously 220,000). The four-week moving average was little changed, up a small 500 to 214,500. In spite of some week-to-week swings, the underlying trend for jobless claims remains modest and consistent with a strong labor market.

The Labor Department cited no special factors in the data. One state — Kentucky — estimated claims in the week.

Continuing claims fell 54,000 in the August 10 week to 1.674 million, giving back more than the increase to 1.728 million in the prior week. The insured rate of unemployment held at 1.2% in the August 10 week, extending the long string of readings in place since May 2018. The unrounded rate fell to 1.161% from 1.198% and was the lowest since 1.160% in the June 8 week. If there is slack in the labor market, it is marginal.

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