The number of Americans who applied last week for unemployment benefits rose to a level that’s still consistent with steady improvement in the labor market.
Jobless claims increased by 10,000 to 268,000 in the week ended June 25, a report from the Labor Department showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for 267,000. Continuing claims decreased for the third week in the last four.
Companies are reluctant to fire workers as skilled and experienced employees become difficult to attract in a tighter labor market. Dismissals that are still hovering near four-decade lows signal a recent slowdown in payrolls may be short-lived as household spending continues to fuel the economy.
“We’re not seeing any huge increase in job losses out there,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James Financial Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida, who correctly forecast the number of claims. “It’s consistent with further improvement in the labor market.”
For 69 consecutive weeks, claims have been below the 300,000 level that economists say is typically consistent with an improving job market. That’s the longest stretch since 1973.
A persistent increase in dismissals would spark concern among economists that businesses are growing more cautious, especially in light of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
While there was nothing unusual in last week’s figures, claims were estimated for Georgia, according to the Labor Department. Filings, on an unadjusted basis, rose the most in New Jersey and California. Pennsylvania showed the largest weekly decline.
Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 248,000 to 278,000. The previous week’s figure was revised to 258,000 from an initially reported 259,000.
The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure than the weekly claims numbers, held at 266,750.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits fell by 20,000 to 2.12 million in the week ended June 18. The four-week average declined to 2.13 million, the lowest since November 2000.
The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits declined to 1.5 percent from 1.6 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.
Hiring in May grew at the slowest pace in almost six years and the prior month’s reading was revised down. The jobless rate fell to an almost nine-year low as more Americans dropped out of the labor force.
Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings, and a sustained low level of applications has typically coincided with faster job gains. Layoffs may also reflect company- or industry-specific causes, such as cost-cutting or business restructuring, rather than underlying labor market trends.