The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week, remaining at a low level in line with a healthy U.S. labor market.
Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., declined by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 237,000 in the week ended June 10, the Labor Department said Thursday.
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"Claims remain low, consistent with the trend in employment growth remaining more than strong enough to keep the unemployment rate trending down," said Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, 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 June 3 were left unrevised at 245,000.
Figures for jobless claims can be volatile from week to week. The four-week moving average for initial claims edged up by 1,000 last week to 243,000.
Low claims can signal that relatively few companies are laying off workers, a sign of health in the broader economy, though claims have continued to edge down in recent years despite a fairly steady pace of layoffs and discharges. Weekly claims have remained below 300,000 for 119 consecutive weeks, the longest such streak since 1970 -- when the U.S. population and workforce were far smaller than they are today.
The labor market has tightened in recent years and the unemployment rate in May fell to 4.3%, its lowest level since 2001. Hiring slowed a bit in recent months; nonfarm payrolls rose by an average of 121,000 a month in the three months ended May, down from last year's monthly average of 187,000.
"Looking ahead, we expect that the job market will strengthen somewhat further," Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen told reporters Wednesday.
Also on Thursday, the Labor Department said continuing unemployment claims, reflecting benefits drawn by workers for longer than a week, rose by 6,000 to 1.935 million in the week ended June 3. Data on continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.
Write to Ben Leubsdorf at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 15, 2017 09:42 ET (13:42 GMT)