The Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing a modest decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended February 26th.
The report showed initial jobless claims dipped to 215,000, a decrease of 18,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 233,000.
Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 225,000 from the 232,000 originally reported for the previous week.
“We expect initial claims to continue to grind back toward 200k as the impact of the Omicron variant increasingly fades,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, Lead U.S. Economist at Oxford Economics.
She added, “Layoffs are expected to be minimal in a tight labor market where employers continue to struggle to attract workers.”
The release of the report comes a day ahead of the release of the Labor Department’s more closely watched report on employment in the month of February.
Economists currently expect employment to jump by 400,000 jobs in February after surging by 467,000 jobs in January, while the unemployment rate is expected to edge down to 3.9 percent from 4.0 percent.
The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average of jobless claims slipped to 230,500, a decrease of 6,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 236,500.
Meanwhile, the report showed continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, inched up by 2,000 to 1.476 million in the week ended February 19th.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims still fell by 36,250 to 1,539,500, hitting the lowest level since April of 1970.
A separate report released by the Labor Department on Thursday showed the spike in U.S. labor productivity in the fourth quarter of 2021 was unrevised from the initial estimate.
The Labor Department said labor productivity surged by 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter after tumbling by 3.9 percent in the third quarter. Economists had expected the jump in productivity to be upwardly revised to 6.7 percent.
Meanwhile, the report showed the increase in unit labor costs during the quarter was upwardly revised to 0.9 percent from the previously reported 0.3 percent. Unit labor costs were expected to be unrevised.
The advance in unit labor costs during the fourth quarter came following a 10.6 percent spike in the third quarter.
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