The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose to a six-month high last week, but remained below a level that is associated with labor market strength.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 275,000 for the week ended Dec. 17, the highest since June, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were unrevised.
It was the 94th straight week that claims were below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market. That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller. The labor market is viewed as being at or near full employment.
Labor market strength contributed to the Federal Reserve raising its benchmark overnight interest rate last Wednesday by 25 basis points to a range of 0.50 percent to 0.75 percent. The U.S. central bank forecast three rate hikes in 2017.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits rising to 256,000 in the latest week. Claims tend to be volatile around this time of the year because of different timings of the various holidays.