WASHINGTON – New claims for unemployment benefits in the United States unexpectedly rose by 11,000 in the week ended Jan. 6 to a nearly four month high of 261,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Economists had been expecting the number of jobless claims to fall last week to 240,000.
The rolling four-week average of claims, a more reliable indicator of trends in the labor market, rose last week by 9,000 to 250,750, according to the Labor Department’s report.
Initial claims have been under 300,000 for 148 consecutive weeks. Economists say any reading below that level is indicative of a healthy labor market.
The number of claims drawn by people for longer than a week – which are known as continuing claims and are released with a one-week lag – fell by 35,000 to 1.87 million in the week ended Dec. 30.
The job market has remained strong during the first 11 and a half months of US President Donald Trump’s administration, with the headline unemployment rate remaining unchanged in December at 4.1 percent, its lowest level in 17 years.