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First Cut: Small increase in jobless claims in August 24 week shows labor market conditions little changed and tight

Claims for unemployment benefits rose a small 4,000 in the August 24 week to 215,000. The increase was well within normal week-to-week variation and remains at a level consistent with a tight labor market. The four-week moving average was essentially unchanged, down a scant 500 to 214,500. The Labor Department cited no special factors behind the report and only one reporting jurisdiction — the Virgin Islands — estimated claims.

Claims typically start to rise around the Labor Day weekend as seasonal jobs during the summer start to close out and those associated with the cooler months are yet to arrive. The August 24 week caught the first wave and the coming week or two should also see increases, although the seasonal adjustment factors anticipate these well. There may be some additional noise in the data with the arrival of Hurricane Dorian. If it reaches the US mainland, winds and heavy rains could cause some shutdowns in activity.

Continuing claims were up 22,000 to 1.698 million in the August 17, also well within normal week-to-week fluctuations.  It was quite close to the four-week moving average of 1.697 million which was a meager 250,000 lower than the prior week.

The insured rate of unemployment remains stubbornly at 1.2%. There is simply little or no slack and has not been for nearly 15 months.

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