Weekly US unemployment benefits fall unexpectedly

<pre><pre>Weekly US unemployment benefits fall unexpectedly

Job seekers visit the CUNY Big Apple job and internship fair at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York.

Richard Levine | Corbis | Getty Images

The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits last week fell for the fifth year in a row, suggesting that the job market remained strong despite the recent slowdown in employment growth.

Initial applications for state unemployment benefits declined by 10,000 to seasonally adjusted 204,000 in the week of January 11, the Ministry of Labor announced on Thursday.

Economists interviewed by Reuters had forecast that data would increase slightly to 216,000 last week after 214,000 unreported reports the previous week.

The US dollar saw losses against a basket of currencies, and US stock index futures saw gains after the data was released. US Treasury bond prices were trading lower.

Although last week's report saw a slowdown in employment growth in December and a drop in annual wage growth to below 3.0%, the labor market remains solid.

The strong labor market should help sustain consumer spending and keep what is likely the longest economic expansion in its eleventh year.

The Federal Reserve described on Wednesday that the economy continued to grow slightly in the last six weeks of 2019. The US Federal Reserve has signaled that it could leave interest rates unchanged after at least three cuts in borrowing costs in 2019, at least until the end of the year.

While demands tend to be lower, there are some worrying signs. The damage data showed layoffs in the manufacturing, transport and storage, construction, education and accommodation, and food supply sectors in late 2019 and early 2020.

Some of the manufacturing job losses that were spread across at least eight countries could be related to the 18-month trade war between the United States and China, which affected corporate confidence and undercut capital spending. US President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu Er signed a first trade agreement on Wednesday, a first step towards defusing the trade war.

Reuters contributed to this report.