Economic Report: Jobless claims drop 16,000 to 212,000, show no hint of deterioration in labor market

Steady hiring and a stable economy have resulted in the lowest level of layoffs in 50 years.

The numbers: The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week fell to the lowest level in a month, dragging new jobless claims back near a post-recession low and suggesting all is well in the U.S. labor market.

Initial jobless claims, a rough way to measure layoffs, sank by 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 212,000 in the seven days ended May 11, the government said Thursday.

Economists polled by MarketWatch estimated new claims would total 217,000.

The more stable monthly average of new claims rose by 4,750 to 225,000, reflecting a runup in April tied largely to a late Easter holiday and spring break. The monthly average should subside soon in line with the weekly figures.

The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, fell by 28,000 to 1.66 million.

What happened: Claims have gyrated sharply over the past month from a low of 193,000 to a high of 230,000, but the ups and downs are quite common around Easter and spring break. Those events can disrupt the process government statisticians uses to adjust the numbers for seasonal variations.

If the seasonal quirks are stripped out, new claims remain near the lowest level in half a century and show no sign of rising.

Big picture: The strong labor market, punctuated by the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, is keeping the economy churning forward despite stiffer headwinds such as a tense trade standoff with China. The U.S. is still on track to set the record for longest expansion ever by midsummer.

Read: Trump takes a page out of early American history with steep tariffs on Chinese goods

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.45% and S&P 500 SPX, +0.58% were set to open higher in Thursday trades. Stocks had rebounded in the past few days after a string of deep losses following a flare-up in trade tensions between the U.S. and China.

Read: Monster clash between U.S., China over trade dwarfs all other issues

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