Economic Report: Jobless claims stick to 245,000 in week before Christmas

U.S. jobless claims in 2017 will end up at the lowest level since 1973.

The numbers: Initial U.S. jobless claims, a tool to measure layoffs, were unchanged at 245,000 in the seven days ended Dec 23. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast claims to total 239,000.

The more stable monthly average of claims rose slightly, up 1,750 to 237,750, the government said Thursday.

The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, edged up by 7,000 to 1.94 million.

What happened: Jobless claims are a bit higher than they were at the end of summer, but they are still 5% lower now compared to exactly one year ago. Claims often jump up and down during the holiday season.

More important, the total number of Americans who applied for benefits in 2017 is on track to be the lowest since 1973. The very low level of layoffs reflects the best labor market since at least the turn of the century.

Big picture: Excellent. Job openings are at record highs, the unemployment rate is at a 17-year low and companies are still looking to hire in an economic expansion now eight and a half years old – quite old by historical standards.

The recently passed tax cuts in Washington could also give the economy another boost in 2018 by adding to worker paychecks and encouraging businesses to spend and invest more. That usually means more hiring.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.11% and S&P 500 index SPX, +0.08% were set to open higher in light holiday trading, future markets showed.

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