U.S. Jobless Claims Rose Slightly Last Week

The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week but remains low, suggesting employers are reluctant to cut staff in a tight labor market.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., rose by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 234,000 in the week ended Aug. 19, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 235,000 new claims last week. Initial claims for the week ended Aug. 12 were unrevised at 232,000.

Data on jobless claims can be volatile. The typically smoother four-week moving average was 237,750 last week, down by 2,750 from the prior week. That was the lowest average since May.

Initial claims have hovered in a historically low range for several years. They have remained below 300,000 for 129 consecutive weeks, the longest such streak since 1970. As a share of the workforce, the layoff proxy is trending at the lowest level on records back to the 1960s.

That generally reflects a much improved labor market since the recession ended in mid-2009. The unemployment rate in July was 4.3%, matching a 16-year low.

But other factors have also pushed down layoffs. A relatively elevated share of Americans have been unemployed for more than six month and generally not eligible for benefits. Fewer work in manufacturing--factories frequently layoff and rehire to adjust production levels. And by some measures, businesses are more risk averse than in past decades.

Also on Thursday, the Labor Department said continuing unemployment claims, reflecting benefits drawn by workers for longer than a week, was unchanged at 1.954 million in the week ended Aug. 12. Data on continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.

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

Write to Eric Morath at eric.morath@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 24, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)