Applications for state unemployment benefits fell by 8,000 from 206,000 applications last report to 198,000 for the week ending December 25, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.

Economists had predicted 205,000 applications.

The number of applications was near a 50-year low, but concerns over COVID-19, low labor market participation rates and rising inflation continue to add to economic uncertainty.

Labor participation, the number of people working or actively seeking a job, continues to hover at rates not seen since the early 1970s

“The claims data may be more volatile in the upcoming weeks due to the seasonal adjustment process, but looking past that noise, we expect claims to remain around 200,000 as layoffs remain low amid tight labor market conditions,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist at Oxford Economics, according to CBS News.

Continuing claims reportedly were 1.72 million for the week ending December 18, which is the lowest since March of 2020, when the pandemic began to peak.

n October, the U.S. had nearly 11 million job openings, a near record.

The news sent the stock market slightly higher on low, pre-holiday volume.

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