Unemployment Claims Fall to 12-Week Low; Credit Card Use Decelerates

(CN) – The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to a 12-week low last week, a sign of stability in the job market for the start of February.

The Labor Department said Thursday initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 12,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 243,000, the best showing since November.

The less-volatile four-week average decline 3,750 to 244,250, which was the lowest average since November 1973.

Claims have now remained below 300,000, a threshold that economists say distinguishes a strong labor market from a weak one, for 101 straight weeks. That’s the longest streak since 1970.

Economists say with an unemployment rate at 4.8 percent, the labor market is now at or near full employment.

The government previously announced the U.S. economy created 227,000 jobs in January.

In other economic news, the latest Federal Reserve consumer credit report shows that U.S. consumers increased their borrowing in December at the slowest pace in six months, as growth in credit card usage decelerated sharply.

The Federal Reserve said this week that total borrowing rose $14.2 billion in December, well below November’s increase of $25.2 billion.

Borrowing in the category that covers auto loans and student loans rose by $11.8 billion —  slightly below the $13.4 billion increase in November.

But borrowing in the category that covers credit cards slowed to a gain of just $2.4 billion after a surge of $11.8 billion in November — the weakest credit card numbers since February 2016.

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