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First Cut: Initial jobless claims unchanged in November 16 week

New filings for jobless benefits were unchanged at 227,000 in the week ended November 16 with the November 9 week revised up slightly (previously 225,000).  Market expectations for for a decrease in claims. It is possible the arrival of bitterly cold weather prompted some layoffs. The four-week moving average rose 3,500 to 221,000, its highest since 222,500 in the June 29 week.

The Labor Department cited no special factors in the data. Only one state — Pennsylvania — estimated claims in the week.

An uptick in claims would be entirely normal at this time of year. Many businesses reduce operations in the winter months and/or make adjustments to the size of their workforces to cut costs and prepare for the coming year. What will be interesting is if businesses decide to retain workers they might otherwise cut in an effort to avoid losing skills and having to pay more to recruit new ones.

The level of continuing claims in the November 9 week was little changed, rising only 3,000 to 1.695 million. This was inline with the 1.693 million in the four-week moving average. And, once again, the insured rate of unemployment was at 1.2% in the November 9 week where it has held since May 2018 with only a brief interruption downward. The rate remains both surprisingly stable and near historic lows.


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