The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week.
In the week ending August 18, new claims for unemployment benefits came in at 210,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s 212,000. Economists had expected claims to rise to 215,000.
The weekly jobless claims data is being closely watched for signs of layoffs as a result of trade disputes. While there have been some widely reported instances of companies laying off workers or planning to do so as a result of tariffs, the claims data indicate that these are isolated phenomena that are not indicative of the health of the labor market.
The four-week moving average was 213,750, a decrease of 1,750 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 215,500. Economists had predicted that number to remain unchanged. Many economy watchers think the four-week average is a better gauge of the labor market because it smooths out week to week volatility.