Economic Report: Unemployment rolls shrink to 44-year low, jobless claims show

Initial U.S. jobless claims fell by 15,000 to 243,000 in the first week of October to mark the lowest level in six weeks.

The numbers: Initial weekly jobless claims fell by 15,000 to 243,000 in early October to mark the lowest level in six weeks. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast claims to total 250,000.

The more stable monthly average of new claims dropped by 9,500 to 257,500 in the week ended Oct. 7.

The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, fell by 32,000 to 1.89 million. That’s the lowest since the end of 1973.

What happened: Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits as more people went back to work in Texas and Florida. A pair of major hurricanes, Irma and Harvey, temporarily prevented many people from working.

Jobless claims are still unusually low in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. The lack of electricity has prevented people from filing claims and the island from processing them. These claims could surge in the next few weeks.

Big picture: The economy is still humming along despite major disruptions caused by the hurricanes. U.S. employment fell in September for the first time since 2010, but it was all because of the storms. Employment is expected to rebound sharply in October.

One of the biggest complaints among businesses is that they cannot find enough skilled workers to fill a record number of job openings. Unemployment is near a 17-year low at 4.2%. That explains why the number of Americans collecting benefits is the lowest in 44 years.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.18%   and the S&P 500 index SPX, +0.18%   were set to open slightly higher in Thursday trades.

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