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U.S. jobless claims at five-month high; import prices fall

WASHINGTON - The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose to a five-month high last week, but this likely does not signal a deterioration in the labor market as the underlying trend remained consistent with tightening conditions....

 

WASHINGTON - The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose to a five-month high last week, but this likely does not signal a deterioration in the labor market as the underlying trend remained consistent with tightening conditions.

Other data on Thursday showed cheaper crude oil and a strong dollar keeping imported inflation pressures subdued in November. The reports did not change views the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next Wednesday for the first time in nearly a decade.

"As we approach the end of the year, jobless claims have a tendency to be more volatile due to seasonal adjustment issues around the holidays. The message remains that the pace of layoffs is very low," said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 282,000 for the week ended Dec. 5, the highest level since early July, the Labor Department said. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it strips out week-to-week volatility, rose only 1,500 to 270,750 last week.

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Claims have now been below the 300,000 threshold, which is normally associated with healthy labor market conditions, for 40 straight weeks. This is the longest stretch since the early 1970s. As the labor market approaches full employment there is probably little room for further declines.

The labor market remains resilient, despite slowing consumer spending and housing market activity.

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