The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, but the trend continued to point to a healthy labor market.
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Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 269,000 for the week ended July 30, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were unrevised.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast initial claims edging down to 265,000 in the latest week.
Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a strong labor market, for 74 consecutive weeks, the longest streak since 1973. With the labor market perceived to be either at or approaching full employment, there is probably limited scope for further declines in claims.
Claims tend to be volatile around this time of the year when automobile manufacturers typically idle assembly lines for retooling. Some, however, often keep production running, which can throw off the model the government uses to strip out seasonal fluctuations from the data.
Through the gyrations, the trend in claims has remained consistent with jobs market strength. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 3,750 to 260,250 last week.
A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing last week's claims data and no states had been estimated.
The claims data has no impact on July's employment report, scheduled to be released on Friday, as it falls outside the survey period. According to a Reuters survey of economists, nonfarm payrolls likely increased by a healthy 180,000 jobs in July after surging 287,000 the prior month. June's jump in job gains was viewed as unsustainable given anemic economic growth.
Labor market strength is boosting consumer spending, which is expected to help the economy regain speed after growth braked to an average 1.0 percent annual rate in the last three quarters.
Thursday's claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid slipped 6,000 to 2.14 million in the week ended July 23. The four-week average of the so-called continuing claims increased 5,250 to 2.14 million.
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)