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Weekly Jobless Claims Total 206,000, Higher Than Expected and Above Pandemic Low

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  • Weekly jobless claims for the period ended Dec. 11 totaled 206,000, above the estimate for 195,000.
  • The four-week moving average declined to its lowest level since Nov. 15, 1969.
  • Continuing claims also fell to a fresh pandemic-era low.

Jobless claims were higher than expected last week after previously hitting their lowest level since 1969, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Initial filings for unemployment insurance for the week ended Dec. 11 totaled 206,000, above the 195,000 Dow Jones estimate and a gain of 18,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised 188,000.

Though the weekly claims total rose, the four-week moving average, which levels out volatility in the numbers, totaled 203,750, the lowest level since Nov. 15, 1969, according to government figures.

Both numbers are much more in keeping with the pre-pandemic environment rather than the outsized numbers shown since layoffs exploded in March 2020, the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak. Weekly claims peaked at 6.15 million in April 2020 and remained above 300,000 before finally dipping below that number in early October 2021.

Continuing claims, data for which runs a week behind the headline number, declined 154,000 to 1.845 million, the lowest since March 14, 2020.

The data comes a day after the Federal Reserve said it will intensify the rate at which it is withdrawing economic support.

The central bank said it will step up the tapering of its asset purchases where it will be buying $60 billion a month in Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities, half the pace prior to November. Along with the taper, Fed officials said they expect to start raising interest rates in 2022, with three quarter-percentage point hikes likely.

In making the move, the rate-setting Federal Open Committee noted that "job gains have been solid in recent months, and the unemployment rate has declined substantially."

A separate report showed that housing starts in November rose 11.8% from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted 1.68 million, while building permits climbed 3.6% to 1.71 million. Both numbers were well above respective estimates of 1.56 million and 1.66 million.

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