The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits dropped last week, a continuing sign of broad health in the labor market. Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., decreased by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 275,000 in the week ended September 5, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 275,000 new claims. The Labor Department said there were no special factors affecting the latest weekly data. Claims for the prior week were revised down to 281,000 from the initially reported 282,000. Claims data are volatile from week to week, but have generally been falling since 2009 and have held at historically low levels for months now. The four-week moving average of claims, which evens out weekly ups and downs, rose by 500 to 275,750 last week. Claims have now been below 300,000 for 27 straight weeks, the longest such streak in more than 40 years. Low jobless claims can be a sign of health in the labor market. The labor market has been adding jobs for nearly five years, though wages have held steady and the number of long-term unemployed and underemployed workers is still relatively high. The Labor Department said Friday employers added 173,000 jobs, the weakest monthly gain since March, while the unemployment rate dropped to 5.1%. That leaves Federal Reserve officials with a mixed picture of the economy as they head into a critical policy meeting next week. Many economists expect the central bank to begin raising interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade this month. But global turmoil, along with a stronger dollar and falling oil prices, has complicated that decision. "Those are important developments that we have to take into consideration," San Francisco Fed President John Williams said in an interview Friday. "All the [U.S. economic] data we've had up until now has been, I think, encouraging. It's been about as good or better, than I was expecting in terms of the U.S. economy. But there are some pretty significant…headwinds that have developed." Thursday's report showed the number of continuing unemployment benefit claims-those drawn by workers for more than a week-rose by 1,000 to 2,260,000 in the week ended Aug. 29. Continuing claims are reported with a one-week lag. Write to Kate Davidson at firstname.lastname@example.org and Anna Louie Sussman at email@example.com.
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