newspaper rollFewer Americans filed applications for unemployment insurance benefits over the past month than at any time in more than eight years, signaling employers are hanging on to workers as demand improves.

The four-week average of jobless claims, considered a less volatile measure than the weekly figure, dropped to 297,250, the lowest since April 2006, from 300,750 the prior week. Claims in the period ended July 26 climbed to 302,000, in line with the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg, from a revised 279,000 the prior week that was the lowest since 2000.

Consumer confidence retreated last week to an almost two-month low as perceptions about personal finances eased. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell to 36.3 in the period ended July 27, the lowest June 8, from 37.6 the week before. A gauge of households’ financial well-being dropped by the most since mid-May after reaching an 11-week high.

The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected claims would increase to 300,000. Estimates ranged from 280,000 to 320,000. The Labor Department revised the prior week’s reading from an initially reported 284,000.

Wages and salaries rose 0.6 percent over the past three months, also the most since 2008, the report showed. Benefit costs increased 1 percent, the largest advance in three years, on heightened retirement expenses.

The jobless claims report showed the number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 31,000 to 2.54 million in the week ended July 19. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.9 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

The average monthly advance in payrolls so far in 2014 has been about 231,000. If that pace is sustained, it would be the best year since 1999.



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