(Bloomberg) -- The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits was little changed last week, holding near four-decade lows that highlight strength in the job market.

Jobless claims fell by 1,000 to 266,000 in the week ended Aug. 6, from a revised 267,000 in the prior period, a report from the Labor Department showed on Thursday. Filings have been below 300,000 for 75 straight weeks, the longest stretch since 1970.

Employers are retaining and hiring more workers and slowly raising wages, indicating consumer spending will keep boosting the world’s largest economy in the second half. Such durability in U.S. employment would be among forces that encourage Federal Reserve policy makers to raise interest rates by the end of 2016.

[Image credit: Bloomberg]
[Image credit: Bloomberg]

“The message from claims continues to be that there’s no significant slowing in employment growth,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York. “The labor market continues to improve.”

The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists was for 265,000, with projections ranging from 260,000 to 275,000. The Labor Department revised the prior week’s reading to 267,000 from an initially reported 269,000.

No states or U.S. territories estimated jobless claims last week, and there was nothing unusual in the figures, according to the department.

Another report from the Labor Department on Thursday showed inflationary pressures remain minimal. Import prices rose 0.1% in July from June, the smallest gain in five months. They were down 3.7% from a year ago.

Continuing Claims

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 14,000 to 2.16 million in the week ended July 30. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.6%. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings, and a sustained low level of applications has typically coincided with faster job gains. Many layoffs may also reflect company- or industry-specific causes, such as cost-cutting or business restructuring, rather than underlying labor market trends.

A report last week showed payroll gains were robust in July for a second straight month. The jobless rate held at 4.9% as many of the people streaming into the labor force found jobs.

Figures released Wednesday by the Labor Department showed that layoffs dropped in June to 1.64 million, the fewest since September 2014. The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey also showed a 110,000 increase in the number of positions waiting to be filled.

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