Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Decrease Through May 18 as Employment Trends Remain Strong

The number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment insurance last week unexpectedly slowed, staying low and showing that the labor market in the world’s biggest economy remains robust, according to analysts.

Claims decreased by 1,000 in the week ended May 18 to 211,000, the lowest level in five weeks and against the consensus on Econoday was for a rise to 215,000. The previous week’s result was unrevised at 212,000. The four-week moving average fell by 4,570 claims to 220,250, the Department of Labor said on Thursday.

Continuing claims in the week ended May 11 rose by 12,000 to almost 1.68 million, while the previous week was revised up by 4,000 to 1.66 million. The four-week average rose by 5,500 to 1.67 million.

“Claims remain low, consistent with a still-strong trend in employment growth,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics.

Among the states, the biggest increases in initial claims for the week ended May 11 came in California, with 1,226 and Michigan, which was up by 379 claims.

New York had the sharpest decrease with 15,394, with the state reporting fewer layoffs in the transportation and warehousing, accommodation and food service, and educational service industries. Pennsylvania’s claims shed 1,040 and Illinois was down 484.

“With Easter distortions now out of the data, the trend appears to have returned to the cycle low, first reached late last summer,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “We have been expecting claims to nudge higher this year on the back of slower economic growth as the kick from the tax cuts fades, but we see no evidence of that yet.”

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