Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign of steady progress in the labor market. Jobless claims fell 6,000 to 312,000 in the week ended June 14, the Labor Department has reported. The total number of people collecting benefits decreased to the lowest level in almost seven years.
Firings have been near pre-recession lows and companies are hiring as they look for a sustained pickup in household purchases. Payroll growth is on pace for its best year since 1999 but will need to spur bigger gains in wages for spending to accelerate and contribute more to the economic expansion.
The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, declined to 311,750 from 315,500 the week before. The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 54,000 to 2.56 million in the week ended June 7, the fewest since October 2007. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits declined to 1.9 percent during that period from 2 percent the prior week, today’s report showed.
Fewer firings typically signal an acceleration in job growth. Employers added 217,000 workers to payrolls in May, lifting the average monthly advance so far this year to 213,600. Some retailers are adding stores and hiring amid strong sales. Though, while the labor market generally shows improvement, underutilization in the labor market remains significant, according to Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve.