Despite an unexpected uptick for Puerto Rico, initial jobless claims fell 2,000 in the December 2 week to a lower-than-expected 236,000. The 4-week average is down less than a thousand to a 241,000 level that remains about 10,000 above the month-ago trend and, though low, nevertheless points to less strength for tomorrow's monthly employment report.
Claims in Puerto Rico had fallen sharply in the prior week, down nearly 4,000 to the 3,000 level, but rose back up in the latest week to 7,115. The Labor Department is warning that backlogged claims continue to be processed in the territory and conditions have not yet returned to normal.
A positive are continuing claims which, instead of drifting higher like initial claims, have been steady. Claims in lagging data for the November 25 week fell 52,000 to 1.908 million and remain roughly unchanged against the prior month. The unemployment rate for insured workers remains very low, at 1.4 percent.
The labor market is very healthy though claims data, along with this morning's Challenger report, are not pointing to increasing strength for November's employment data.