Like the bitter cold that's penetrated the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states the past few days, initial claims in the U.S. for unemployment insurance plunged last week. On a seasonally adjusted basis, initial claims for the week ending Jan. 15 totaled 319,000, some 48,000 fewer than the 367,000 submitted the previous week, the U.S. Labor Department reported on Jan. 19.
Economists generally had expected initial claims to decline by 22,000 to about 345,000. The actual decline, which is subject to revision, was twice that.
The Labor Department's four-week moving average of initial claims, which often is a better indicator of underlying labor market conditions, also fell last week, but proportionately less than the weekly figure. The four-week moving average was 341,000, some 3,000 claims lower than the previous week's figure of 344,000.