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BLBG: Claims for Jobless Benefits in U.S. Point to Firm Job Market
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased last week, while staying within a range that shows subdued firings.

Jobless claims rose by 6,000 to 244,000 in the week ended Feb. 18, a report from the Labor Department showed Thursday. The four-week average declined to the lowest level since July 1973.

A tight labor market and growing economy are prompting companies to hold on to employees, setting the stage for larger wage gains. Last week included the 12th of the month, which coincides with the period the Labor Department surveys employers to calculate monthly payroll data.

The four-week moving average decreased by 4,000 to 241,000, the lowest since July 21, 1973. The average is lower than the 247,500 during the comparable period in January.

The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for 240,000 applications last week. Economists’ estimates ranged from 225,000 to 255,000. The figure for the previous week was revised to 238,000 from an initially reported 239,000.

While there was nothing unusual in the figures, claims were estimated for Hawaii, Virginia and Wyoming, according to the Labor Department.

The latest tally marks 103 straight weeks of claims below 300,000, the level economists consider consistent with a healthy labor market. The 161-week period that ended in April 1970 was the longest such streak in records back to 1967.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 17,000 to 2.06 million in the week ended Feb. 11. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.