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US jobless claims edge upward in mid-February

WASHINGTON, Feb 17: New US claims for jobless benefits edged up in the second week of February but continued their record streak of low levels, the Labour Department reported on Thursday (Feb 16).

Amid robust job creation in recent months, new claims for unemployment benefits have remained low, adding to a general picture of health in US labour markets.

In the week ending Feb 11, first-time jobless claims rose by 5,000 to a seasonally-adjusted level of 239,000. An analyst consensus had called for a slightly higher result of 245,000.

The more stable four-week moving average was barely changed at 245,250, just 500 more than the prior week, continuing the streak below 300,000 to 102 weeks, the longest stretch since 1970.

Though jobless claims can have big swings from week to week, they often are used to gauge the prevalence of layoffs and the health of labour market.

Analysts say the data suggest employers are refraining from layoffs in the belief they will not be able to replace the workers they let go.

US monetary policy makers in December adopted only their second interest rate increase in a decade, persuaded that robust job creation since mid-2016 had put the economy near full employment.

US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testified before Congress this week that conditions indicate more interest rate increases will be appropriate, and left open the possibility of a hike as soon as next month.

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