The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits at the end of July rose for the second straight week, but new claims remained unusually low in a reflection of a steadily improving labor market. Initial jobless claims edged up 3,000 to 270,000 in week ended Aug. 1, the government said Thursday. That matched the forecast of economists surveyed by MarketWatch. New claims had fallen to a 42-year low in mid-July. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 6,500 to seasonally adjusted 268,250. That's the lowest level since mid-May and the second smallest reading since the recession ended in 2009. 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. Some 2.26 million people were already collecting weekly unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, in the seven days ended July 25. That was down 14,000 from the prior week.
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