WASHINGTON - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, yet it remained near a 14-year low in a reminder that one small part of the labour market has returned to full health.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 12,000 290,000 for the week ended Nov. 8, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims increasing to 280,000 last week. Claims have now been below the 300,000 threshold for nine straight weeks, and in October hit their lowest level since 2000 at 266,000.
Together with a separate survey of employers that tracks job openings, the claims data suggests firms are well past a cycle of elevated lay-offs that began in the 2007-09 recession.
Still, even as claims have fallen, the pace of hiring has been remarkably steady in recent years and has averaged about 200,000 a month, although job creation appears to have accelerated slightly this year.
Also, while workers are no longer being laid off at high rates, they still appear to lack confidence in the labour market and are thus wary to quit their jobs. The share of workers with jobs who quit has held steady most of this year, and remains well below where it was at the start of the recession.
Analysts think this is one reason behind stagnant wage growth, which is arguably the biggest unresolved matter in America's labour market recovery. The Labor Department is due to release September data on the rates of job turnover - including the quits rate - later on Thursday.
In the claims data, the four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labour market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 6,000 to 285,000.
The Labor Department said there were no special factors influencing last week's claims data.
The Federal Reserve last month gave an upbeat view of the labour market, dropping its characterization of labour market slack as "significant" and replacing it with "gradually diminishing." The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid rose 36,000 to 2.39 million in the week ended Nov. 1. The unemployment rate for people receiving jobless benefits was at 1.8 per cent for a ninth straight week.