Unemployment Benefits Claims Rise Slightly

(CN) – More Americans sought unemployment benefits during the week ending Feb. 17, but the modest nature of the uptick suggests the nation’s job market remains healthy.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 244,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, about 6,000 more than filed for benefits the previous week.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell by 4,000 to 241,000, lowest since July 21, 1973 when it was 239,500.

Overall, 2.06 million people are collecting unemployment checks, down 7.7 percent from a year ago.

Unemployment claims have now come in below 300,000 a week for 103 straight weeks, the longest such streak since 1970.

Economists say the modest rise in claims is a sign that employers are hanging on to their workers both because they’re bullish on the future and fear replacements will be hard to find in a tight job market.

The unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, which the Federal Reserve considers full employment.

Employers added a healthy 227,000 jobs in January after averaging 187,000 a month last year.