First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly showed a modest decrease in the week ended August 4th, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday.
The report showed that initial jobless claims fell to 361,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 367,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge up to 367,000 from the 365,000 originally reported for the previous week.
Jim O'Sullivan, Chief U.S. Economist at High Frequency Economics, said, "The weekly readings should have been fairly 'clean' for the past couple of weeks, with distortions from the shutdowns over."
"The data are subject to other sources of short-term noise, of course," he added. "Even so, the clear decline since June provides some corroboration of the better-than-expected payrolls reading last week. In short, encouraging data for the recovery."
At the same time, the report showed that the less volatile four-week moving average crept up to 368,250 from the previous week's revised average of 366,000.
The Labor Department also said continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, rose to 3.332 million in the week ended July 28th from the preceding week's revised level of 3.279 million.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims climbed to 3,304,750 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,300,250.
Last Friday, the Labor Department released a separate report showing stronger than expected job growth in the month of July, although the report also showed an unexpected uptick by the unemployment rate.
The report said non-farm payroll employment increased by 163,000 jobs in July following a downwardly revised increase of 64,000 jobs in June.
Economists had expected employment to increase by about 100,000 jobs compared to the addition of 80,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.
Despite the job growth for the month, the unemployment rate edged up to 8.3 percent in July from 8.2 percent in June. The increase surprised economists, who had expected the unemployment rate to come in unchanged.
by RTT Staff Writer
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