U.S. initial jobless claims edged down again last week to 190k

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U.S. initial jobless claims edged down again last week to 190k
Credit: © Reuters.

By Geoffrey Smith 

Investing.com -- The U.S. labor market continued to defy forecasts for a slowdown last week, as the number of people filing initial claims for jobless benefits fell again.

Initial jobless claims edged down to 190,000 from 192,000 the previous week, again failing to corroborate the visible rise in layoffs across much of the U.S. economy. Analysts had expected a modest rise in initial claims to 195,000. 

Continuing claims , meanwhile, stayed stuck at 1.65 million. After rising from a historic low of 1.3 million in the middle of last year, continuing claims - which are seen as a better indicator of how easy or difficult it is for the newly unemployed to find work - have drifted marginally lower through the first two months of 2023.

The data are the only labor market numbers due from the U.S. this week, with the key nonfarm payrolls report pushed back to March 10th. 

Other data released at the same time, however, added to the body of evidence over the last couple of weeks suggesting that more inflationary pressure remains in the U.S. economy than the decline in headline consumer prices over recent months would suggest. 

Unit labor costs rose by 3.2% in the fourth quarter of last year, accelerating again after two quarters of relatively subdued gains. Unit labor costs, which are a rough measure of productivity, rose strongly throughout the pandemic, but had moderated clearly as the disruptions to the economy from lockdowns and supply chain bottlenecks faded.  Over the same period,  nonfarm productivity rose by only 1.7%, rather than the 2.6% expected. 

The numbers added to pressure on U.S. bonds, which have been steadily repricing a higher trajectory for interest rates over the last week. The benchmark two-year Treasury note yield rose 5 basis points to 4.94%, while the 10-Year note yield, which breached 4% for the first time since November on Wednesday, rose 8 basis points to 4.08%.

The Dollar Index , which tracks the greenback against a basket of advanced economy currencies, rose another 0.6% to 105.02.

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