(Bloomberg) – Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly dropped to the lowest level in seven weeks, showing employers have little appetite to fire workers.
Jobless claims fell by 4,000 to 259,000 in the week ended Sept. 3, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median estimate of 43 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 265,000.
With the unemployment rate holding below 5 percent and job openings reaching a record high in July, managers are focused on retaining and attracting employees. Filings for benefits near four-decade lows should signal a boost in wages, which would encourage Federal Reserve officials looking to raise the benchmark interest rate before the end of 2016.
“The job market in general remains on sound footing,” said Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Inc. in Detroit. “I do think we’ll get a bit better pace of economic growth in the second half of the year, and that should continue to support the demand for labor.”
Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 255,000 to 275,000. The prior week’s reading was unrevised at 263,000.
While there was nothing unusual in the data, claims in five states and Puerto Rico were estimated last week, according to the Labor Department.
The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, declined to 261,250 from 263,000 in the prior week. Filings have been below 300,000 for 79 straight weeks -- the longest stretch since 1970 and a level economists say is typically consistent with a healthy labor market.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 7,000 to 2.14 million in the week ended Aug. 27. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits was 1.6 percent for a seventh week. These data are reported with a one-week lag.
The claims figures provide additional perspective on the labor market following the monthly jobs data released last week that showed hiring cooled in August.
Payrolls increased by 151,000, less than forecast, and the unemployment rate stayed at 4.9 percent for a third month. The hiring pace last month compares with the 186,000 average for January through July.
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