According to the Department of Labor, the number of workers receiving unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in 44 years at the end of 2017. The Thursday report showed that 1.87 million people received unemployment insurance benefits in the last week of December, marking the lowest seasonally-adjusted mark since December of 1973. In most states, benefits are available for up to 26 weeks.

The lower rate of unemployment benefits recipients indicates an improving economy and that fewer people are being subjected to layoffs. In recent months, the total number of unemployment claims came close to the lowest levels in many years. In the first week of 2018, claims rose 11,000 to 261,000, according to the same report.

While economic forecasters had expected employment claims to descend only slightly from the previous week's level of 250,000, which was the highest since November, they rose to their highest level since September, when the numbers were inflated by hurricane damage to states in the Deep South.  The Department of Labor said that damage related to hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are affecting claims in those places.

However, new unemployment claims are still below the level that would suggest a spike in unemployment. Economists suggest that it should be about 300,000.
With the unemployment at the lowest rate since 2000 (4.1 percent), job creation by the economy has been strong, recently. Joblessness could thus decline even further this year. Over the last three months, job gains have averaged 204,000 for each month. While unemployment claims fell during the end of Barack Obama’s tenure in office, they spiked during the financial crisis and reached levels not seen in the mid-2000s. During Trump’s first year in office, unemployment has steadily declined.
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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