The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose less than expected last week and the underlying trend remained consistent with a tightening labor market that is starting to spur faster wage growth.
Other data on Thursday showed import prices posting their largest gain in nearly five years in the 12 months through December, suggesting that inflation could soon push higher. Import prices are being driven by rising oil prices, but a strong dollar could mitigate some of the impact on inflation.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 247,000 for the week ended Jan. 7, the Labor Department said. Jobless claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 97 consecutive weeks. That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits rising to 255,000 in the latest week. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 1,750 to 256,500 last week.
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