US Unemployment Applications Flat at 374,000
WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at a seasonally adjusted 374,000, suggesting slow improvement in the job market.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, increased to 370,250.
Applications for unemployment benefits reflect the pace of layoffs. They have risen slightly over the past three weeks, though they remain lower than in spring, when hiring nearly stalled. Last week’s number was revised upward to 374,000 from the 372,000 that was reported initially.
Still, when applications fall consistently below 375,000, it generally indicates that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.
The latest applications data suggest that the government’s employment report for August, to be released next week, will show job gains near the recent monthly average of 100,000, said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist with Capital Economics. That isn’t enough to drive down unemployment significantly.
"Given some of the indicators seen so far, the August payroll report is not going to look terribly inspirational," said Jennifer Lee, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets, in a note to clients.
Employers added 163,000 jobs in July. The hiring gains were an improvement from the previous three months, when the economy created an average of only 73,000 a month. But they weren’t enough to lower the unemployment rate, which rose to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent in June.