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Unemployment claims fall to the lowest weekly level since September


About 204,000 people applied for unemployment benefits last week, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s down from last week’s total jobless claims and only slightly below the weekly pre-pandemic average of 218,000.

Continuing claims, which are filed by people who have received unemployment benefits for more than one week, fell to 1.69 million for the week ended Dec. 24, from 1.72 million.

Thursday’s data indicated continued resilience in the labor market despite anti-inflationary efforts by the Federal Reserve intended to cool the economy — and which would normally have a negative impact on the labor market, resulting in layoffs.

Many economists and investors fear that the Fed’s aggressive actions, which have included seven straight jumbo rate hikes, could plunge the economy into a recession. But so far the labor market seems impenetrable.

“This is a reason to be optimistic that the economy can move past a recession,” Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi told CNN last week. “Without mass layoffs, it is unlikely that consumers will stop spending and the economy will suffer a downturn.”

Economists expected 225,000 initial claims, according to a consensus estimate from Refinitiv.

Weekly claims for time off are unstable – especially around the holidays – and often subject to revision.

A separate report from payroll company ADP reported Thursday morning that the private sector added 235,000 jobs in December, a figure that landed well above economists’ expectations of 150,000.

Consumer-oriented industries, especially leisure and hospitality; and small and medium-sized businesses drove the increase in new jobs, ADP reported. Large companies, those with 500 employees or more, lost 151,000 jobs during the last month of the year, according to the report.

Attention now turns to the Labor Department’s monthly employment report on Friday, which is expected to show the US economy added 200,000 jobs during December, capping a year of extraordinary job growth.

— CNN’s Matt Egan contributed to this report. This story is a work in progress and will be updated.

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