U.S. Jobless Claims Dropped Last Week

By Sarah Chaney and Eric Morath Features Dow Jones Newswires

The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits fell last week, another signal of a buoyant job market.

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Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., fell 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 233,000 in the week ended July 15, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast 243,000 new claims.

Last week's claims were near the lowest level recorded since 1973, but the data comes with the caveat that seasonally-adjusted figures can be choppy in early July due to temporary factory shutdowns that vary from year to year.

Jobless claims 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, decreased by 2,250 last week to 243,750.

The number of claims drawn by workers for longer than a week--so-called continuing claims--grew 28,000 to 1.977 million in the week ended July 8. Data on continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.

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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. Employers added a seasonally adjusted 222,000 jobs in June, and the unemployment rate rose slightly to 4.4% as more people joined the labor force.

The Labor Department's latest report on jobless claims can be accessed at: https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf

Write to Sarah Chaney at sarah.chaney@wsj.com and Eric Morath at eric.morath@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 20, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)