(Bloomberg) -- Initial applications for US unemployment benefits fell to the lowest in a month last week, underscoring continued strength in the labor market despite a growing number of high-profile job cuts at large companies.

Initial claims decreased by 12,000 to 201,000 in the week ending Feb. 17, according to Labor Department data released on Thursday. The figure was lower than all economists’ estimates in a Bloomberg survey. 

Continuing claims, a proxy for the total number of people receiving unemployment benefits, dropped to 1.86 million in the week ending Feb. 10, also the lowest in a month.

The latest data, which show filings remain near record lows, add to other reports indicating the labor market remains robust despite elevated interest rates. Many economists see job stability as a key factor underpinning a forecast for ongoing increases in consumer spending this year.

Weekly claims tend to be volatile. The four-week moving average, which helps smooth short-term swings, decreased to 215,250.

The unadjusted data on initial claims, which doesn’t take into account seasonal influences, dropped 197,932, the lowest since October. California and Kentucky saw the largest declines.

What Bloomberg Economics Says...

“The surprise drop in jobless claims — coming just after a spate of layoff announcements — adds to lingering doubts about how tight the labor market really is. Drilling down to state-level data, we see that the breadth of labor-market weakness has increased — implying that conditions in the labor market are less sanguine than they appear on the surface.”

— Eliza Winger, economist

To read the full note, see here

Morgan Stanley and electric-car maker Rivian Automotive Inc. are among companies that have announced plans to reduce their workforce this month. The rising number of layoffs at big corporations may signal jobless claims could rise in coming months, although so far the figures have remained low. 

--With assistance from Nazmul Ahasan and Molly Smith.

(Adds economist’s comment.)

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