The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly held at lower levels last week, pointing to further momentum in the labor market after job growth surged in June.
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Initial claims for state unemployment benefits were unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 254,000 for the week ended July 9, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims are near the 43-year low of 248,000 touched in mid-April.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast initial claims rising to 265,000 in the latest week. Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 71 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since 1973.
The labor market is on a strong footing, with nonfarm payrolls increasing by a robust 287,000 jobs in June, which should underpin economic growth for the rest of the year.
A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing last week's claims data and no states had been estimated.
Claims are, however, entering a period of volatility.
Automobile manufacturers normally idle assembly lines for retooling in summer but some often keep production running, which can throw off the model the government uses to strip out seasonal fluctuations from the data.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 5,750 to 259,000 last week.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased 32,000 to 2.15 million in the week ended July 2. The four-week average of the so-called continuing claims fell 3,250 to 2.14 million.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)