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Unemployment Claims Skyrocket By 20K To 243K In March

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits skyrocketed in early March, jumping by 20,000 to 243,000 in just two weeks.

While the number of layoffs remains at a 45-year low, the number of people applying for jobless benefits is well above initial expectations. Economists originally anticipated jobless claims to total around 238,000, MarketWatch reports.

As a result of the increase, the four-week average of initial claims also rose, notching up 2,250 to 236,500.

The news may come as a shock to those paying attention. U.S. jobless claims fell Mar. 2 to the lowest levels since March of 1973, and the labor market maintained the second-longest streak under 300,000 claims since the mid-1960s.

While the increase is likely to cause some alarms to sound, many other economic indicators show an incredibly healthy labor market.

But companies are finding it difficult to recruit skilled labor, which may show signs of a tightening labor market, according to a survey out of The National Association for Business Economics. A tightening labor market is describes a situation where unemployment is falling and fewer jobs are available.

While Thursday’s numbers may sound alarming, the trend over the past year gives little cause for concern. Hourly compensation and productivity increased in 2016, continuing gains from the previous year. The unemployment rate also fell on the year.

The federal government is set to release another stellar jobs report Friday, with predictions of 210,000 new jobs in February. Meeting or exceeding those goals could go a long way in mitigating any concerns surrounding unemployment claims in March.

For its part, the stock market is also posting historic gains on a near weekly basis, showing signs of health and growth in the financial sector. (RELATED: BREAKING: Dow Over 21K)

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