The FINANCIAL — The number of Americans seeking first-time unemployment benefits fell last week, suggesting the labor market remains healthy, according to Nasdaq.
Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., decreased by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 271,000 in the week ended Aug. 22 the Labor Department said Thursday. The decline comes after four straight weekly increases.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 273,000 claims. The Labor Department said there were no special factors impacting the latest weekly data.
There were 277,000 initial claims filed the prior week.
Claims data are volatile week to week. Over a longer period, applications for jobless benefits remain historically low. The four-week moving average of claims, which removes volatility, rose to by 1,000 to 272,500 last week, but still hover near a 15-year low.
Other recent data also indicates that the labor market is strengthening six years into the expansion. The economy created 215,000 jobs in July and has added an average 235,000 over the past three months. The unemployment rate was 5.3% last month. Job openings remain relatively high, suggesting employers continue to expand.
The Labor Department will release August payroll and unemployment data on Sept. 4. That will be the last broad gauge of the labor market Federal Reserve policy makers will see before they meet next month.
An improving jobs market could reassure Fed officials as they debate when and how quickly to raise short-term interest rates, which have been pinned near zero since the recession. Many economists expect the central bank to start to raise rates at its September policy meeting, though overseas turmoil and gyrations in the financial markets could give the central bank pause.
Thursday’s report showed the number of continuing unemployment benefit claims—those drawn by workers for more than a week—advanced by 13,000 to 2,269,000 in the week ended Aug. 15. Continuing claims are reported with a one- week lag.