New applications for U.S. unemployment benefits sank by 15,000 to 281,000 in the seven days ended July 11, erasing a big increase in the prior week that stemmed from retoolings at auto plants and other season quirks typical in midsummer. The latest report on initial claims offers further evidence that the labor market continues to heal, with layoffs in the economy hovering near a record low. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast initial claims to fall to 287,000 from a revised 296,000. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, edged up by 3,250 to seasonally adjusted 282,500, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average smooths out sharp fluctuations in the more volatile weekly report and is seen as a more accurate predictor of labor-market trends. Continuing jobless claims declined by 112,000 to 2.2 million in the week ended July 4. These claims reflect people already receiving unemployment checks.
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