Applications for U.S. state unemployment benefits declined last week to the lowest level since 1969, illustrating difficulties adjusting the raw data for seasonal effects.
Initial unemployment claims totaled 184,000 in the week ended Dec. 4, down 43,000 from the prior period, Labor Department data showed Thursday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 220,000 applications.
The drop pushes the level of applications below the plunge two weeks earlier in what many economists attributed to difficulties adjusting for seasonal swings around the holidays. On an unadjusted basis, initial claims climbed by about 64,000.
Requests for jobless aid have trended down since the start of the year as Americans return to work and employers focus on retaining staff to meet robust demand.
Rising prices and the coronavirus continue to complicate the pace of business activity and hiring. Job growth last month registered its smallest gain this year as widespread labor shortages persist.
The four-week moving average of initial applications, which smooths out large swings in the data, dropped to 218,750. That’s the lowest since March of last year.
Continuing claims for state benefits rose to 1.99 million in the week ended Nov. 27, up 38,000 from the prior period.
Most states reported increases in unadjusted claims last week, led by California, Texas and New York.
Jordan Yadoo, Bloomberg News