New signs of a sustained improvement in labor market conditions are apparent after the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week. According to the Labor Department, initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 298,000 for the week ended Aug. 16.
Claims for the week prior were revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported. A Labor Department analyst also stated that there were no special factors influencing the state level data. Economists who were polled by Reuters initially forecasted claims slipping to 300,000 last week.
The four-week average of claims, which is considered a better measure of labor market trends, rose 4,750 to 300,750. Even at that level, it remains consistent with solid job growth and claims that reflect pre-recession levels.
The claims report covered the duration of time in which the government surveyed employers for August’s nonfarm payrolls data. The four-week average of claims fell 8.500 between the July and August survey periods, suggesting another month of strong job gains.
Finally, the jobless claims report also showed that the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 49,000 to 2.50 million in the week ended Aug.9. The number reflects the lowest level since June 2007. For the sixth consecutive week, the unemployment rate for people receiving jobless benefits was 1.9 percent.