US jobless claims edge higher

Washington (AFP) –


New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits ticked higher last week but overall the labor market has been showing improvement, official data released Thursday indicated.

Initial jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, rose by 8,000 to 285,000 in the week ending January 30, the Labor Department reported. The prior week's level was revised to 277,000 from the prior estimate of 278,000.

The Labor Department said there were no special factors affecting the initial claims data.

Applications for unemployment benefits have remained below 300,000 since late February 2015 as the jobs market tightens.

But claims have been moving slightly higher in recent weeks, a trend that analysts say may be linked to employers' adjustments in staffing levels following the year-end holiday season that boosts temporary hiring.

The four-week moving average, which helps to smooth weekly volatility, increased by 2,000 to 284,750. A year ago, it was 289,000.

"The US job market is cooling but this isn't overly concerning as it has been running red hot," said Ryan Sweet of Moody's Analytics.

The increase in the four-week moving average is "evidence that job growth early this year will unlikely duplicate the 284,000 average monthly gain seen in the fourth quarter of 2015," he said.

The claims data comes ahead of the closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.

The Labor Department is expected to report the economy added 188,000 jobs last month, slowing from the 292,000 jump in December.

The unemployment rate is forecast to hold for a fourth consecutive month at 5.0 percent, a seven-year low.