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Initial unemployment claims sink to their lowest level since 1969: 'A positive signal'

It's a holiday miracle?

Initial jobless claims slid to their lowest level in more than 52 years last week, CNBC reports, falling below average pre-pandemic levels and thus "marking a milestone in the labor market's recovery," adds The Wall Street Journal.

New filings for the week ending Nov. 20 totaled 199,000, "a number not seen since Nov. 15, 1969, when claims totaled 197,000," writes CNBC. The latest Labor Department report also beat the 260,000 estimate and the previous week's count of 270,000.

"Claims have been moving in the right direction and are sending a positive signal about the labor market," economist Rubeela Farooqi told the Journal. "Businesses are wary of letting go of workers amid a severe labor shortage." 

"It is reasonable to expect that this proxy for layoffs should continue to improve," added economic analyst Mark Hamrick in comments emailed to The Washington Post.

Economist Lou Crandall, however, believes the "larger-than-expected drop" has to do with "how the government adjusts the raw data for seasonal swings," writes Bloomberg.

"This is purely a seasonal factor distortion. Much of it will reverse next week," Crandall said following the Labor Department's release. Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, also told MarketWatch he believes claims will rebound to about 260,000.

Continuing claims, which run a week behind initial claims, also dropped to a new pandemic-era low, falling 60,000 to 2.05 million, CNBC reports. 

The Labor Department's monthly jobs report, to be released next week, "is expected to shed more light on the complex dynamics of the labor market," per the Post.