U.S. Jobless Claims Rose Last Week -- Update

By Sarah Chaney and Ben Leubsdorf Features Dow Jones Newswires

The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits rose last week for the third consecutive time, though overall numbers remain consistent with steady job gains.

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Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 248,000 in the week ended July 1, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast 246,000 new claims.

"In short, claims remain low, consistent with the trend in employment growth remaining more than strong enough to keep the unemployment rate trending down," Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said in a note to clients.

Estimates of jobless claims can be volatile from week to week, but generally have hovered near four-decade lows in recent months, suggesting that employers are holding on to workers.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, which evens out weekly volatility, increased last week to 243,000.

The number of claims drawn by workers for longer than a week -- so-called continuing claims -- grew 11,000 to 1.956 million in the week ended June 24. Data on continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.

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Weekly claims have remained below 300,000 for 122 consecutive weeks, the longest such streak since 1970 -- when the U.S. population and workforce were far smaller than they are now.

The persistently low level of layoffs is one sign the labor market is tightening and may be at or near the level that economists consider maximum employment. The Labor Department will release its June employment report Friday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal forecast that the unemployment rate last month matched May's 4.3%, while predicting nonfarm employers added 174,000 jobs.

Write to Sarah Chaney at sarah.chaney@wsj.com and Ben Leubsdorf at ben.leubsdorf@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 06, 2017 09:56 ET (13:56 GMT)