US jobless claims fall for fourth straight week

A 'help wanted' sign in a restaurant window in New York: US jobless claims fell for a fourth straight week,the Labor Department reported

Washington (AFP) – US claims for unemployment fell for the fourth week in a row last week, extending an unprecedented streak of low levels, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The continued scarcity of layoffs suggested June was likely to be another strong hiring month as the data were collected during the survey week for the department’s more closely watched monthly US employment report.

For the week ending June 16, the number of new claims for jobless benefits fell by 3,000 to 218,000, marking the 21st week below the level of 250,000.

Claims have now held below 300,000 for more than three years, the longest such stretch ever recorded.

The less volatile four-week moving average fell a steeper 4,000 to 221,000 claims.

Though they can see big swings from week to week, jobless claims can be used as a gauge of health of labor markets and the prevalence of layoffs.

With unemployment at its lowest level since 2000, employers are increasingly stretched to fill open positions, making them unusually reluctant to lay off workers who will be difficult to replace.

Anecdotal reports indicate companies have begun to rehire retirees and poach workers from other companies, which is beginning to eat into profits but has yet to result in statistical signs of faster wage growth.

The Federal Reserve has cited the tight labor markets as a justification for accelerating the path of interest rate increases this year.