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Weekly jobless claims:

A person walks past a sign advertising a job at a fast food restaurant on November 05, 2021 in New York City.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Initial jobless claims totaled 215,000, the lowest total so far this year and less than Wall Street estimates, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Economists polled by Dow Jones were looking for first deposits totaling 225,000 for the week ended Feb. 26.

A separate Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed nonfarm productivity rose 6.6% in the fourth quarter, slightly less than the 6.7% estimate. However, unit labor costs increased by 0.9%, well above the 0.3% expected.

As for jobless claims, last week’s total was down 18,000 from the previous week and was the lowest since January 1.

Continuing claims, which are a week behind the overall figure, rose slightly to 1.48 million. However, the four-week moving average, which dampens weekly volatility, fell to 1.54 million, the lowest level since April 4, 1970.

The total number of people receiving benefits under all programs fell further, falling to 1.97 million, a drop of 62,625.

The unemployment figures come a day ahead of the BLS’s closely watched nonfarm payrolls report. Wall Street is looking for a gain of 440,000 in February, after the much stronger than expected total of 467,000 in January.

Businesses are still trying to fill nearly 11 million job vacancies at a time when labor shortages have grown to unprecedented levels. There are about 4.4 million more job vacancies than there are unemployed people looking for work.

Wages have surged in the current environment, with average hourly earnings up 5.7% in January, a level well above anything seen in the pre-pandemic environment, according to Labor Department data. dating back about 15 years.

Unit labor costs continued to rise in the last three months of 2021, but at a slower pace than the previous quarter, largely due to the jump in productivity. A 7.5% increase in hourly compensation was largely offset by a 6.6% increase in productivity. For the full year, unit labor costs rose 3.6%, down from the 4.3% gain recorded in 2020.

Federal Reserve policymakers are poised to tackle the inflation problem with an expected series of rate hikes.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday called the labor market “extremely tight” and said he expects the first rate hike to come at the policy meeting later. later this month.

Weekly jobless claims:

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