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Jobless claims: Another 198,000 individuals filed new claims last week

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First-time unemployment filings fell by 8,000 claims from the previous week’s reading, marking the second lowest print during the pandemic and signaling continued recovery in the labor market as high demand for workers pours into the new year.

The Labor Department released its latest report on initial and continuing claims on 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 Dec. 25: 198,000 vs. 206,000 expected and upwardly revised to 206,000 during prior week

  • Continuing claims, week ended Dec. 18: 1.716 million vs. 1.875 million expected and downwardly revised to 1.856 million during prior week

The newest print brings the four-week moving average to 199,300 in the week ending Dec. 25, Bloomberg data reflected. Continuing claims dropped to a fresh pandemic low of 1.716 million. Forecasts for this week's jobless claims release ranged from 190,000-225,000 from 22 economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

First-time filings for unemployment remained below the 2019 average of 218,000, when the unemployment rate was at a half-century low of 3.5%, according to Bloomberg. The current unemployment rate is also expected to edge down to 4.1% in December as the labor market continues to tighten.

At 205,000, last week’s initial unemployment claims were on par with economist forecasts and below pre-pandemic levels yet again. Earlier in December, jobless claims fell sharply to 188,000, the lowest level since 1969. The prints serve an early indication of the relative strength expected to show in December’s jobs report, though the economic impact of the virus remains unclear.

“Fortunately, there’s no evidence in this data of a new wave of fresh job loss,” Bankrate senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick said, commenting on last week’s figures. “New claims are only slightly above the lowest point in decades notched a couple of weeks ago.”

“With so much uncertainty now and the high level of concern about the Omicron variant, we’ll take stability when we can get it,” Hamrick added.

Earlier this month, JPMorgan chief U.S. economist Michael Feroli predicted the unemployment rate could fall to around 3%.

“It's stunning to see how much the rate has fallen in the last five months,” he told Yahoo Finance Live. “We expect that pace of decline to slow, but it doesn't take much to get below 4%, even with a tick up in the labor participation rate, which has been depressed over the last year and a half."

Record cases of COVID-19 may discourage workers from looking for work as U.S. households continue to cite fear of COVID or virus-related caretaking needs as reasons for staying out of the job market.

“The pandemic’s resurgence is affecting the economy,” Hamrick said in a note last week. “The question is for how long and how much, and it is too early to know the answers.”

This post is breaking. Check back for updates.

Alexandra Semenova is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alexandraandnyc

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