US weekly requests for jobless aid up 2,000 to 234,000

Slightly more Americans applied for jobless aid last week. Despite the small increase, the number of people seeking benefits remained close to historic lows.

THE NUMBERS: Weekly unemployment applications rose by 2,000 to 234,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The less volatile four-week average declined 2,750 to 237,750. The increase in claims followed a large drop the previous week. The number of people collecting unemployment benefits has fallen 9.5 percent over the past 12 months to 1.9 million.

THE TAKEAWAY: The job market appears solid as the U.S. enters its ninth year of recovery from the Great Recession. Employers are holding onto workers with the expectation that business will continue to improve. Jobless claims — a close indication of layoffs — have come in below 300,000 for 129 weeks in a row. That's the longest such stretch since 1970, when the U.S. population was much smaller.

KEY DRIVERS: The economy revved up this spring after a weak start to the year, fueled by a surge in consumer spending. The government says that growth in the gross domestic product, the economy's total output of goods and services, expanded at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter. That's more than double the revised 1.2 percent in the first quarter.

This year, the economy is expected to grow about 2 percent. That would be roughly in line with annual gains during the recovery. Consistent hiring has helped sustain the gradual recovery, although the expansion is starting to show its age as the pace of job gains has slowed this year.

The unemployment rate has fallen to a 16-year low of 4.3 percent. The government's jobs report for July showed that U.S. employers added 209,000 jobs.

Against the backdrop of strengthening growth but chronically low inflation, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and other central bankers are assessing the global economic picture at this week's annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Few analysts expect any major policy changes to be announced. The Fed is in the midst of gradually and modestly raising its benchmark interest rate to reflect the strengthened U.S. economy.