US jobless aid applications plummet to low level of 234,000

Associated Press

Feb. 8, 2019

WASHINGTON  The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped sharply last week, a sign that layoffs are rare and the job market is strong.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless aid fell 19,000 to 234,000, a low level that indicates businesses are holding onto employees. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The four-week average, a less volatile figure, rose to 224,750.

Businesses are hiring at a pace that has surprised economists, who expected job gains would slow as the number of unemployed dwindled. The jobless rate stood at just 4 percent last month, when employers added 304,000 jobs, the most in nearly a year.

The 35-day partial government shutdown likely sliced growth in the first quarter by roughly 0.3 percentage points at an annual rate, economists say.