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First Cut: Initial jobless claims defy expectations and decline in the November 30 week

Initial jobless claims fell 10,000 to 203,000 in the week ended November 30 after an unrevised 213,000 in the prior week. The level was the lowest since 193,000 in the April 13 week. Seasonal adjustment factors anticipated more claims than actually were filed at 216,737 in the November 30 week. Businesses may have already accomplished much of the layoff activity that would normally take place toward year end and thus keep overall levels relatively low.

The Labor Department reported no special factors and no states estimated claims in the week. Conditions in the labor market remained tight and with little evidence of loosening up as often happens at the end of the year.

Continuing levels for claims were up 51,000 in the November 23 week, suggesting that workers are not moving off the unemployment rolls as quickly. However, some of that might be due to the timing of the Thanksgiving holiday, perhaps as workers preferred to wait a week before seeking new employment.

The insured rate of unemployment was up a tenth to 1.2% in the November 23 week, returning to the rate that has dominated since May 2018 with few exceptions that dipped to the historic low of 1.1%.

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