U.S. Jobless Claims Fall By 5,000 to 240,000

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, suggesting the labor market's steady expansion has room to run.

Initial jobless claims, a measure of layoffs across the U.S., dropped by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 240,000 in the week ended July 29, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected 241,000 new claims.

Claims have fallen three of the past four weeks and are hovering near four-decade lows. The four-week moving average of claims, which smoothes out volatility, fell 2,500 to 241,750.

The figures suggest companies are mostly expanding or holding payrolls steady rather than downsizing, helping extend a historically long labor-market expansion. They also could boost hopes for a solid jobs report Friday on hiring in July.

Economists project that the economy added 180,000 jobs in July, in line with the broader trend this year. Unemployment is expected to fall a tenth of a percentage point to 4.3%.

Steady hiring and low unemployment could reassure the Federal Reserve about the economy's health as the central bank considers raising interest rates further this year.

Thursday's report also showed the number of Americans that have received benefits for more than a week--so-called continuing claims--rose 3,000 to about 1.97 million in the week ended July 22. Continuing claims are reported with a one-week lag.

The Labor Department report on jobless claims can be accessed at:http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/eta/ui/current.htm.

Write to Josh Mitchell at joshua.mitchell@wsj.com and Sarah Chaney at sarah.chaney@wsj.com.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 03, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)