The number of people applying for unemployment benefits in early January declined for the fifth consecutive week, signalling the labor market is sturdy. Jobless claims dropped by 10,000 to 204,000 in the week ended Jan. 11, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast a reading of 220,000. The monthly average of new claims declined to 216,250 from 224,000.
Claims declined to a 50-year low of 193,000 last April and have mostly hovered in the low 200,000s since then. Some companies have cut employment in the past few months, primarily in manufacturing, energy, and transportation. However, layoff figures remain very low.