The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits was unexpectedly unchanged at a five-month high last week, suggesting some softening in the labor market.
The initial state benefit requirements were flat at a seasonally adjusted 227,000 for the week ending November 16, the highest level since June 22, the Labor Department said Thursday. Last week's data was revised to show 2,000 more claims received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast that claims would be reduced to 219,000 over the past week. The Labor Department said only claims for Pennsylvania were estimated last week.
The four-week moving average of the first requirements, considered a better measure of the evolution of the labor market as it boosts week-to-week volatility, rose from 3,500 to 221
The claims data covered the week the government surveyed business operations for the non-farm payrolls in the November Employment Report. The four-week average of claims increased 5,250 between the survey weeks in October and November.
Although there was little change in job gains this month, employment growth will be boosted by return to payrolls for approximately 46,000 workers at General Motors.  The 40-day strike at carmaker facilities in Michigan and Kentucky helped hold back wage gains to 128,000 jobs in October.
Job growth has slowed this year, averaging 167,000 per month, compared to an average monthly gain of 223,000 in 2018, partly due to a 16-month U.S.-China trade war, low demand and labor shortages.
The minutes of the Federal Reserve's October 29-30 policy meeting published Wednesday showed that while officials at the US Central Bank saw labor market conditions as still strong, and also acknowledged the decline in the pace of job gains.
Politicians attributed the moderation in hiring to labor shortages and also viewed it as "a sign of some cooling in labor demand," in line with the recent decline in vacancies.
Last month, the Fed cut prices for the third time this year, signaling a break in the relief cycle that began in July when it reduced its borrowing costs for the first time since 2008.
Thursday's claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after a first week Assistance rose 3,000 to 1,70 million for the week ending 9 November. the average of the so-called continuing claims also got 3,000 to 1.69 million.