The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits dropped last week from already low levels, a sign of health in the U.S. labor market.
Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., declined by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 232,000 in the week ended Aug. 12, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was the lowest level since February and the second-lowest weekly reading since 1973.
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"The trend is still extraordinarily low, signaling that firms are very reluctant to let people go, presumably because it is so hard to find replacements," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a note to clients.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 240,000 new claims last week. Initial claims for the week ended Aug. 5 were left unrevised at 244,000.
Data on jobless claims are volatile. The more-stable four-week moving average was 240,500 last week, down by 500 from the prior week.
Initial claims have hovered in a historically low range for several years. They have remained below 300,000 for 128 consecutive weeks, the longest such streak since 1970 -- when the U.S. population and workforce were far smaller than they are today.
More broadly, the American job market is on solid footing. The unemployment rate in July was 4.3%, matching its lowest level since 2001. Nonfarm payrolls rose by an average of 184,000 a month in the first seven months of 2017, little changed from last year's monthly average of 187,000 net new jobs.
The latest data on jobless claims "point to another month of solid hiring," Barclays chief U.S. economist Michael Gapen said in a note to clients.
Also on Thursday, the Labor Department said continuing unemployment claims, reflecting benefits drawn by workers for longer than a week, fell by 3,000 to 1.953 million in the week ended Aug. 5. Data on continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.
Write to Ben Leubsdorf at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
August 17, 2017 09:53 ET (13:53 GMT)