The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at 205,000, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.
The number was in line with estimates and compares to a revised 205,000 last week. The measure has trended near the 200,000 mark for a few weeks as the labor market steadily improves.
The four-week moving average ws 206,250, an increase of 2,750 from the prior period.
The health of the job market is one of the factors that prompted the Federal Reserve last week to announce a further reduction in its purchases of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities. The Fed is now buying $60-billion-per-month worth of assets, down 50% from what it began buying when the coronavirus first struck the country in March of 2020.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said last week that the central bank expects the unemployment rate, now at 4.2%, to fall to 3.5% by the end of next year, the record level it reached just prior to the onset of the pandemic. Meanwhile, employers have 11 million job openings to be filled.
“The nation’s jobless rate, recently at 4.2%, is seen falling further over the next year, as more Americans attain employment and others seek to upgrade their compensation and/or lifestyles by switching jobs,” Bankrate senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick wrote ahead of the report’s release.