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The Numbers


The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits in mid-January fell to 187,000 and touched the lowest level in 16 months, showing that layoffs remain near record lows.

New jobless claims declined by 16,000 from a revised 203,000 in the prior week, the government said Thursday.

Economists had forecast new claims in the week ending Jan. 13 to total 208,000.

People apply for benefits after getting laid off. New claims are still quite low historically even though hiring has tapered off.

The Caveat

New jobless claims tend to jump up and down around the holiday shopping that stretches from Thanksgiving until Martin Luther King Jr. Day because of temporary hiring. Economists prefer to wait until February before trying to glean broader trends in the labor market.

Big Picture

After a big surge in hiring over the past few years, businesses are pulling back.

Yet there’s enough demand for goods and services, even with the economy slowing, that most companies are avoiding layoffs.

A strong jobs market and low unemployment rate have been the economy’s strongest bulwark against recession in a period of rising interest rates.

Market Reaction

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and S&P 500 (SPX) were set to open mixed in Thursday trading.

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