A job seeker takes notes during employer presentations at a United Career Fairs sales and management hiring event in Oak Brook, Illinois, U.S.(Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

U.S. Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Rise After Shutdown Ends

(Bloomberg) -- Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week and remain elevated compared with recent trends, a sign of possible residual effects of the partial government shutdown.

Jobless claims increased to 239,000 in the week ended Feb. 9, above all economists' estimates, Labor Department figures showed Thursday. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, increased to 231,750, the highest in a year.

Key Insights

  • The jump could indicate that the five-week shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, may still be rippling through the economy. The results also have the potential to be seen as a weak signal in an otherwise strong jobs market, as the unemployment rate has also crept up recently.
  • Taken together with a Commerce Department report Thursday showing retail sales fell in December by the most in nine years, the claims figures may suggest the economy is slowing more than investors and analysts had figured.
  • Analysts caution that holidays in December, January and February make the jobless-claims more volatile and harder to gauge for underlying trends around this time of year.
  • While federal workers’ claims aren’t factored into the headline numbers for benefits, filings by contractors and businesses may be potentially boosting the weekly figures.

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  • Continuing claims, which are reported with a one-week lag, rose by 37,000 to 1.773 million in the week ended Feb. 2.
  • The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.2 percent.
  • The previous week’s claims were revised up to 235,000 from 234,000.

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