US jobless claims fall as record run persists

Washington (AFP) - New claims for US jobless benefits fell in mid-November, confirming the strength of American labor markets and continuing a record streak of low levels, official data showed Wednesday.

The result suggested November could see continued strong job creation as employment recovers from hurricane-related disruptions at the end of the summer.

Data were collected during the survey week for the Labor Department's monthly jobs report.

The record run of low levels could also be one more factor nudging the US central bank towards adopting a third interest rate increase for the year when it meets next month.

For the week ending November 18, new claims for unemployment insurance dropped by 13,000 to 239,000, matching analyst expectations.

The less volatile four-week average rose slightly to 239,750. Officials in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico continue to face difficulties in reporting jobless figures, according to the Labor Department.

Jobless claims have now held below 300,000 for 142 weeks, or nearly three years, the longest such streak since 1970.

Analysts say, however, that the levels in fact represent an absolute low, given the increase in the population in the last 47 years.

Though they can see big swings from week to week, jobless claims can be used to gauge the prevalence of layoffs and health of labor markets.

The Federal Reserve has reported a widespread labor shortage, as employers face difficulty filling vacant positions with qualified workers.

Analysts say under such conditions companies are reluctant to let workers go, fearing they may be hard to replace. But wage growth has remained sluggish.

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