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US jobless claims rise but still close to 14-year low

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The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, yet it remained near a 14-year low in a reminder that the labour market appears to be moving toward full health.

[WASHINGTON] The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, yet it remained near a 14-year low in a reminder that the labour market appears to be moving toward full health.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 12,000 to 290,000 for the week ended Nov 8, the Labour Department said on Thursday.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a smaller increase. Claims have now been below 300,000 for nine straight weeks, and in October hit their lowest level since 2000 at 266,000. "This increase is nothing to worry about," said Ian Shepherdson, an economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

"Claims can remain close to their current trend for an extended period." Yields on US government debt were mostly flat following the data's release, suggesting little impact on Wall Street bets on when the US Federal Reserve will hike interest rates.

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The Fed last month gave an upbeat view of the labour market, dropping its characterization of labour market slack as "significant" and replacing it with "gradually diminishing." Together with a separate survey of employers that tracks job openings, the claims data suggests firms are well past a cycle of elevated lay-offs that began in the 2007-09 recession.

Still, even as claims have fallen, the pace of hiring has been remarkably steady in recent years and has averaged about 200,000 a month, although job creation has accelerated slightly this year.

Also, while workers are no longer being laid off at high rates, they appear to lack confidence in the labour market and are thus wary to quit their jobs. The share of the employed who quit has held steady most of this year, and remains well below pre-recession levels.

Fewer workers quitting their jobs reduces the available pool of workers for job openings and analysts believe this is a reason behind stagnant wage growth, arguably the biggest unresolved matter in America's labour market recovery. The Labour Department is due to release September data on the rates of job turnover - including the quits rate - later on Thursday.

The Labour Department said there were no special factors influencing last week's claims data.

The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid rose 36,000 to 2.39 million in the week ended Nov 1.

REUTERS

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