Jobless claims rise to highest in almost three months

Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose to the highest level in almost three months, extending increases from a four-decade low.

Jobless claims increased by 7,000 to 265,000 in the week ended Oct. 29, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a drop to 256,000. Continuing claims dropped to the lowest since June 2000.

Even with the increase, initial claims are in line with the 264,000 average for 2016, as a dwindling pool of skilled and experienced job hunters keeps employers from firing workers. While payroll gains have cooled from last year’s pace, they probably remained solid in October, with a 175,000 rise projected by analysts ahead of a separate government report due Friday.

Filings for unemployment benefits have been below 300,000 for 87 straight weeks — the longest streak since 1970 and a level typical for a healthy labor market.

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Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 250,000 to 270,000. The prior week’s reading was unrevised at 258,000. Claims touched 246,000 in the week ended Oct. 1, the lowest since 1973.

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, increased to 257,750 from 253,000 in the prior week.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 14,000 to 2.03 million in the week ended Oct. 22. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

No states had estimated claims last week and there was nothing unusual in the data, according to the Labor Department.

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Though applications for unemployment insurance remain near historic lows, there are other factors that have pushed claims down, including cuts in the duration of benefits and changes to claim-filing technology.