WASHINGTON -- Initial
The number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits was down 24,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 358,000. Analysts had expected a reading of 345,000.
The closely watched barometer of the labor market has been on a downward trend this year, reflecting a strengthening labor market.
But the figures, although they are seasonally adjusted, have been volatile in recent weeks as auto factories begin their annual summer shutdowns for retooling.
The claims number jumped 14,000 to a two-month high the week of July 6. The drop last week brought claims near the five-year low of 327,000 recorded in late April.
The less-volatile four-week average was 346,000 last week, the Labor Department said.
That figure was down 5,250 from the previous week and back below the 350,000 level that economists say indicates moderate labor market growth.