Weekly jobless claims rise more than expected
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased more than expected last week, but the underlying trend remained consistent with solid labor market conditions.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 219,000 for the week ended Feb. 22, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims increasing to 212,000 in the latest week. The Labor Department said only claims for Alabama were estimated last week.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 500 to 209,750 last week.
Sustained labor market strength suggests the longest economic expansion on record, now in its 11th year, remains on track. Investors have been rattled by fears that the coronavirus, which has killed more than 2,000 people, mostly in China, and spread to other countries, would undercut global and U.S. economic growth. Risky assets such as stocks have been sold off in favor of safe-haven government bonds.
Money markets have raised their bets on the prospect of more Federal Reserve cuts. The U.S. central bank cut rates three times last year and has signaled its intention to keep monetary policy on hold at least through 2020.