Labor news you can love: Unemployment claims fall to lowest levels since 1973

The Labor Department report was the latest good news about a labor market that continues to pick up steam

By Matthew Rozsa
Published November 17, 2016 7:45PM (EST)

In the week ending November 12th, 235,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits , the fewest to do so since 1973.

The Labor Department report found that jobless claims dropped by 19,000 from the previous week. This marks the 89th week in a row in which filings for unemployment have bee below 300,000, the first time that has happened since 1970. It also showed that continuing claims had reached their lowest in 16 years, falling by 66,000 to below 1.98 million. The overall unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent.

All of this indicates that the economy is continuing to expand and employers would prefer keeping current employees rather than firing them and dipping into a labor pool with fewer experienced workers than ever. That is a promising sign for the labor market.

“We’re exhausting the pool of workers that we can draw from out of the unemployed,” explained Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, in an interview with Bloomberg. “We’re approaching full employment, so we’re seeing really strong job gains, but they can’t continue for very long.”

Daniel Silver, an economist at JP Morgan, echoed this view to The New York Times. "Clearly the latest news ... sent an upbeat signal about the labor market," Silver explained.

As The New York Times also explained, the economic improvement can be attributed to an increase in shopping and home construction. The Veterans Day holiday may have also played a role, as government figures can sometimes take a week to adjust for seasonal disruptions. This may cause the jobless benefits figures to increase next week, although if that happens it won't on its own be cause for alarm.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Job Market U.s. Labor Department Unemployment