Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week as employers retained staff to meet domestic demand for goods and services ahead of the holiday season. Jobless claims decreased by 17,000 to 297,000 in the week ended Nov. 29 from 314,000 as reported by the U.S. Labor Department. The median forecast of 46 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a decline to 295,000.
Minnesota attributed some of the increase in claims in recent weeks to bad weather. Ten other states said firings climbed in the construction industry, which could also mean inclement conditions slowed building projects.
Temperatures were at least 15 degrees Fahrenheit below normal in five states (Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio) during the week ended Nov. 22 while all of the contiguous 48 states had below-normal temperatures.
Companies added 208,000 workers to payrolls in November, following a revised 233,000 gain the month before. Employment increased by about 230,000 in November after a 214,000 gain the previous month. The unemployment rate is projected to hold at 5.8 percent, the lowest since July 2008. The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, rose to 299,000 from 294,250 the week before.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits climbed by 39,000 to 2.36 million in the week ended Nov. 22. In that same period, the unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.8 percent, consistent since early September. Initial jobless claims, which reflect weekly firings, typically decrease before the economy sees gains in the number of jobs available.