Economic Report: U.S. jobless claims tumble to 213,000 just before Thanksgiving, back near post recession low

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The numbers: The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits fell sharply in the week before the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, putting jobless claims back near historic lows and reflecting the persistent strength in the U.S. labor market.

Initial jobless claims declined by 15,000 to 213,000 in the seven days ended Nov. 23, the government said Wednesday. Last week claims had touched a five-month high.

Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast new claims to total 220,000 after seasonal adjustments. The report came out a day earlier due to the U.S. holiday on Thursday.

Read: U.S. consumer confidence falls for the fourth month in a row on labor-market worries

What happened: Jobless claims are often volatile during the holiday season that begins in November, a month that includes Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.

Shifting dates of Thanksgiving in particular can play havoc on the government’s efforts to adjust the data for seasonal swings in employment. That’s what looks to have happened this month.

By and large, jobless claims have ranged around 220,000 or less for most of the year.

Read: Brainard calls for major overhaul in how the Fed sets the level of U.S. interest rates

The monthly average of new claims, meanwhile, fell by 1,500 to 219,750. The four-week average gives a more stable view of the labor market than the more volatile weekly number.

The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, declined by 57,000 to 1.64 million. These claims are still near the lowest level since the early 1970s.

Big picture: Jobless claims had climbed to a five-month high just ahead of the holiday season, but most of the increase appeared to be tied to the government’s seasonal adjustments. The General Motors strike GM, +0.28%  strike and major wildfires in California may have also played a role.

Yet there’s little evidence that layoffs are on the rise or that the economy is getting any weaker.

Look for more ups and downs in jobless claims. Employment often gyrates in November and December as companies take on temporary help to cope with a busy time of the year.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.20% and S&P 500 SPX, +0.22% were set to open higher in Wednesday trades. Stock prices remain at or near record highs.

The 10-year Treasury yield TMUBMUSD10Y, +1.23% edged up at 1.75%.