New unemployment claims rose but remained near a 52-year low last week, with the weekly pace of new claims holding below pre-pandemic levels as the labor market sees job openings near a record high.
The Labor Department released its latest weekly jobless claims report Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET. Here were the main metrics from the print, compared to consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg:
Initial jobless claims, week ended Jan. 1: 207,000 vs. 195,000 expected and a revised 200,000 during the prior week
Continuing claims, week ended Dec. 25: 1.754 million vs. 1.678 million expected and a revised 1.718 million during the prior week
The U.S. economy saw another week with new jobless claims coming in below their pre-virus levels, as new claims averaged around 220,000 per week throughout 2019. And though claims came in slightly higher than expected, some economists had warned heading into the report that the timing of this week's data around the holidays might cause some additional distortions.
"Signal-to-noise ratio is high at this time of year, because seasonal adjustment over the holidays is extremely difficult, so all forecasts are tentative," Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Economics, wrote in a note earlier this week. "The trend, though, is falling."
Continuing claims, like new claims, have trended lower, but remained above pre-pandemic levels in the latest data. And in the latest data, they increased slightly by 36,000 to reach a total of nearly 1.8 million, rising from what had been the lowest level since early March 2020 during the prior week.
At 207,000, the tally for new jobless claims for the final days of 2021 came in above the 188,000 reported in early December, which marked the lowest level since 1969.
"Fortunately for workers, employers have not been in a rush to cut jobs. New claims for unemployment benefits remain near decades-low levels," Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate, wrote in an email.
"The question remains whether there will be sufficient workers to fill available positions and how many individuals will be willing to re-join the labor force, by working or looking for work," he added.
And indeed, while employers have not shown a willingness to remove workers, employees have been voluntarily leaving their jobs in record droves. Some 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November, according to the Labor Department's most recent monthly report. And the quits rate edged back up to 3.0% in November to match September's record high, with the higher rate suggesting workers felt more confident about leaving their roles and being able to find new ones.
This week's jobless claims report also comes a day before the Labor Department's latest monthly jobs report for December, due out Friday at 8:30 a.m. ET. During the survey week for that print, new jobless claims came in just over 200,000, in a still-low reading boding favorably for the monthly report.
Consensus economists expect to see the Labor Department report that non-farm payrolls grew by more than 400,000 in December, or doubling the 210,000 job gains seen in November. The unemployment rate is expected to improve to 4.1%, or the lowest level since February 2020's 50-year low of 3.5%.
Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck