US jobless claims unexpectedly rise

WASHINGTON: The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, but remained below a level associated with a strengthening labour market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 258,000 for the week ended March 18, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 2,000 more applications received than previously reported. The government revised the claims data going back to 2012 and published new seasonal factors for 2017.
The revisions showed claims falling to 210,000 for the week ended February 25, the lowest level since 1969.
Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labour market for 80 straight weeks. That is the longest stretch since 1970 when the labour market was smaller. The labour market is currently near full employment.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labour market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose only 1,000 to 240,000 last week.
New US single-family home sales jumped to a seven-month high in February, suggesting the housing market recovery was gaining momentum despite higher prices and rising mortgage rates.
“New home sales are the secret sauce that helps make the economy grow,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York. “This will put some backbone in investment spending and make this economic expansion more sustainable.”
The Commerce Department said new home sales increased 6.1 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 592,000 units last month, the highest level since July 2016. Sales have now more than recouped the sharp drop suffered in December. — Reuters