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Economy & Business

U.S. Jobless Claims Stabilize, Signaling Strong Labor Market

Job seekers line up at TechFair in Los Angeles, Calif., March 8, 2018. (Monica Almeida/REUTERS)

As the public’s confidence in the markets continues to wobble, the labor market has showed signs of strength in recent weeks after a brief spike in unemployment claims.

New claims for state unemployment benefits sank to the seasonally adjusted 216,000 during the week that ended December 22, a 1,000 drop from the previous week, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department.

Initial claims have dropped for most of the last month, but sparked concern between September and December when they began climbing again after steadily dropping for years.

In mid September, initial unemployment claims hit 202,000, the lowest level since 1969. Continuing claims also dropped by 4,000 to 1.7 million for the week ending December 15.

However, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index fell 8.3 points in December to 136.4, the biggest monthly drop since July 2015.

Reflecting volatile consumer confidence, the stock market  bottomed out on Tuesday, then enjoyed a record surge on Wednesday, gaining over 1,000 points, only to dip again on Thursday.

Tech stocks Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google-parent Alphabet stocks all dropped on Thursday. Caterpillar, Boeing, and Deere also fell.

Economists have attributed the market jitters to several factors, including gridlock in Washington that forced a partial government shutdown just before Christmas, trade uncertainty as President Trump scraps international trade deals, and the Federal Reserve’s plan to keep gradually raising interest rates.

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