U.S. filings for unemployment benefits fell to a four-week low even amid a partial federal government shutdown, showing healthy demand for workers at the start of the year, Bloomberg reports.
Jobless claims decreased by 17,000 to 216,000 in the week ended Jan. 5, below the 226,000 median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists, Labor Department figures released this morning show. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, edged up to 221,750.
Job openings are now outnumbering unemployed workers across increasingly wide swaths of the country, forcing businesses to rethink how they find workers, and hinting a possible future labor shortage, Reuters reports.
The volume of openings first topped the number of jobless people in Midwestern states in early 2017. But in recent months that phenomenon has spread to other regions, particularly the South.
Economists say the most convincing signs of labor shortages would be a surge in wage growth. While average hourly earnings rose 3.2% in December, that is tepid by historical standards. But the combination of increasing job openings and falling unemployment around the country is making a more convincing case of a tighter U.S. labor market.