More Americans than forecast filed for unemployment benefits last week, a possible sign the pace of improvement in the labor market has cooled.
Jobless claims increased by 21,000 to 313,000 in the week ended Nov. 22, the highest since early September, from 292,000 in the prior period, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. It would take several weeks of sustained elevated readings to confirm the labor market has taken a step back.
It’s particularly difficult to adjust the data during the holiday season, suggesting there should be no rush to judgment yet, Thomas Simons, an economist at Jefferies LLC in New York, said in a research note.
“Variant winter weather, the floating timing of the Thanksgiving holiday, and preparations for the holiday-shopping season that differ from prior years tend to make historical comparisons difficult,” Simons wrote. “Volatility will probably continue to be elevated until the end of the year, but we expect that claims will drift lower again.”
The median forecast of 48 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a decline to 288,000, with estimates ranging from 280,000 to 300,000. The prior week’s claims were revised from an initial reading of 291,000.
Other reports today showed consumer spending climbed in October at the same pace as incomes, and demand for capital goods unexpectedly dropped for a second month.
Expenditures increased 0.2 percent last month after being little changed in September, showing households are staying within their means as the holiday-shopping season begins, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington.
Orders for non-military durable goods excluding aircraft, a proxy for future business investment in new equipment, fell 1.3 percent last month, the same as in September, the Commerce Department reported.
Stock-index futures dropped after the reports, erasing earlier gains. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in December was little changed at 2,067.3 at 9:03 a.m. in New York.
There was nothing unusual in the claims data and no states were estimated, a Labor Department spokesman said as the report was released to the press.
The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, climbed to 294,000 from 287,750 the week before.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 17,000 to 2.32 million in the week ended Nov. 15, the fewest since December 2000.
In that same period, the unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits fell to 1.7 percent, the lowest since November 2000, from 1.8 percent the prior week, the report showed.
Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and typically decrease before job growth can accelerate.