The number of Americans filing initial applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, suggesting the labor market has continued to strengthen following a brief stumble in May.
Initial claims dropped by 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 209,000 for the week ended July 6, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists had expected claims to rise to 223,000.
The prior week’s claims were revised up to 221,000.
Jobless claims have been very low, suggesting a low level of layoffs. That has defied predictions that tariffs and trade disputes would cost American jobs. What’s more, job creation has been strong despite extremely low unemployment.
Last month, however, the government reported that the economy created less than 75,000 jobs in May, the second time this year that job creation had come in weaker than expected. But job creation bounced by in June, rising to a much stronger than expected 224,000 for the month.
Jobless claims can be volatile week to week so economists look to the four-week moving average of claims for a better indicator of the health of the labor market. This figure fell 3,250 to 219,250 last week.