Fewer Americans applied for jobless benefits last week, but the previous week’s number was revised upward significantly, with claims breaching the 250,000 level in back-to-back weeks for the first time in more than eight months.
Applications for jobless aid for the week ending July 23 declined by 5,000 to 256,000 from the previous week’s 261,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The number of claims for the week of July 16 was revised upwards by 10,000 from the previous estimate of 251,000.
First-time applications generally reflect layoffs.
The four-week average for claims, which smooths out some of the week-to-week volatility, rose by 6,250 from the previous week, to 249,500. That number is also at its highest level since November of last year.
The total number of Americans collecting jobless benefits for the week ending July 16 fell by 25,000 from the previous week, to 1,359,000. That figure has been near 50-year lows for months.
Earlier this month, the Labor Department reported that employers added 372,000 jobs in June, a surprisingly robust gain and similar to the pace of the previous two months. Economists had expected job growth to slow sharply last month given the broader signs of economic weakness.
The unemployment rate remained 3.6% for a fourth straight month, matching a near-50-year low that was reached before the pandemic struck in early 2020.
Although the labor market is still considered strong, other indicators are pointing to some weakness in the US economy. The government said Thursday that the US economy shrank 0.9% in the second quarter, the second straight quarterly contraction.