The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell less than expected last week, pointing to a cooling labor market. The Labor Department said Thursday that first-time claims for state unemployment benefits dropped by 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 297,000 for the week ended Nov. 29.
However, the decline still nearly reversed the prior week’s increase, which pushed claims above 300,000 for the first time since early September. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 295,000 last week.
The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims, which is considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, still increased by 4,750 to 299,0000. It has held below 300,000 for 12 straight weeks, indicating labor market strength.
A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing last week’s claims data, but the data have no impact on November’s employment report due to be released on Friday. The report falls outside the survey period.
Nonfarm payrolls are expected to have increased by 230,000 last month after rising by 214,000 in October, according to a Reuters survey of economists. If true, then it would mark the 10th consecutive month of payroll gains above 200,000, though the majority of jobs created on in low-paying — and even part-time dominated — industries.
The private sector payroll processor ADP reported this week that 208,000 jobs were created in November, which missed economists’ expectations of a significantly bigger gain of 221,000 jobs added for the month.
The unemployment rate is forecast steady at a six-year low of 5.8 percent.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased by 39,000 to 2.36 million in the week ended Nov. 22.