Economic Report: Jobless claims climb to one-month high of 222,000

Years of steady hiring have pulled the U.S. unemployment rate down to a two-decade low and reduced layoffs to the lowest level in half a century.

The numbers: The rate of layoffs in the U.S. rose in early May to the highest level in a month, but so-called initial jobless claims are still near the lowest levels in half a century.

Initial jobless claims rose by 11,000 to 222,000 in the week ended May 12, the government said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast a 215,000 reading.

The more stable monthly average of claims, meanwhile, fell by 2,750 to 213,250. For the second week in a row these claims were at the lowest level since 1969.

The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, fell by 87,000 to 1.71 million. The last time fewer people were receiving jobless benefits was in 1973.

What happened: Raw or unadjusted jobless claims increased notably in Missouri and Kentucky, but they were little changed in most other states. Claims can gyrate in some states at the end of the school year when employment in education fluctuates.

Big picture: Job openings are at a record high, unemployment is unusually low at 3.9% and most companies are still hiring nine years after an economic recovery got under way.

There’s no sign of a slowdown in sight and the expansion appears all but certain to become the longest ever if it carries on as expected for another year. A strong labor market is a big part of the reason.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.19% and S&P 400 index SPX, -0.12% were set to open lower Thursday. The 10-year Treasury yield TMUBMUSD10Y, +0.00% was yielding 3.10%, hanging near a 2011 peak.

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