Claims for unemployment benefits fell by 24,000 for the week ending July 13, sinking to an adjusted 334,000 and raising confidence that job gains should remain steady. Applications are at their lowest level in 10 weeks though some of that decline could be the result of seasonal factors. But the four-week average also fell by 5,250 to 351,000, a favorable trend.
July can be a particularly volatile month for unemployment aid applications. Auto manufacturers typically close for the first half of the month leading to heightened layoffs. However, most of the auto industry shortened, or even skipped, shutdowns in order to keep up with higher demand. As a proxy for layoffs, applications have also declined 5 percent since January coinciding with stronger job growth.
Throughout the first half of the year, employers added 202,000 jobs, on average, each month, compared to 180,000 over the prior six-month period. June saw 195,000 added jobs and revisions to April and May figures brought the number of jobs up by 70,000. The unemployment rate has remained stagnant at 7.6 percent, though is down from 8.2 percent one year ago.
Even with steady job gains, the economy has experienced only weak growth. The general consensus of economists is that growth slowed during Q2 2013 to an annual rate of 1 percent or less, marking the third consecutive quarter of sub-2 percent growth. But many economists are also hopeful that steady hiring will help accelerate growth for the remainder of the year. Over 4.5 million people received unemployment benefits in the week ending June 29, down 1,900 from the previous week and down 21 percent over the past year.