Figures released Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department indicated initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 19,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 223,000 for the week ended February 25, the lowest level since March 1973. The previous week's level was revised from 244,000 to 242,000. It is the lowest level for initial claims since March 31, 1973 when it was 222,000, the Department of Labor says.
Economists' estimates in the Bloomberg survey for initial jobless claims ranged from 230,000 to 260,000. He calls it a "remarkable run below 300,000" that has reached "historically low levels".
The four-week moving average also decreased by 6,250 to 234,250.
The four-week average is considered more reliable as it smooths out sharp fluctuations in the more volatile weekly figures, giving a more accurate picture of the health of the labour market.
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"The trend remains favorable but is likely being distorted by favorable weather and seasonal adjustment issues surrounding the holidays". The big picture here is that claims have now been below 250K - the floor of the trend late a year ago - in eight of the past nine weeks, and are now comfortably at their lowest level ever when adjusted for population growth.
That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller.
The number of people collecting unemployment benefits in the U.S. fell to its lowest in 44 years, astonishing economists and prompting further expectations of an interest rate hike for the Federal Reserve at its next meeting on 15 March.
There is more than a three-in-four chance of a rate hike according to CME Group's calculations, while other measures find an even higher probability.