US jobless claims hit six-month low in early August

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WASHINGTON: New claims for US unemployment benefits fell sharply in early August, reaching their lowest weekly level in six months, according to Labor Department data released Thursday.

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The new figures suggested labor markets continued to tighten and that the jobless was likely to remain near its current 16-year-low of 4.3 percent.

For the week ending August 12, new claims for unemployment insurance fell by 12,000 from the prior week to a seasonally adjusted 232,000, the lowest level since February.

Analysts had been predicting a decrease of only 4,000 claims.

Authorities in California reported falling layoffs in the service and agriculture industries but manufacturing layoffs rose in Kansas, Missouri and Pennsylvania.

Weekly claims have been below 300,000 for 128 weeks, or nearly two and a half years, the longest such streak recorded since 1970. They have been at or below 250,000 for 18 of the past 20 weeks.

The less volatile four-week moving average fell by 500 claims to 240,500, its lowest level since May.

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

But after 82 months of continuous job creation, the United States is seeing a reduced supply of available workers, making employers reluctant to lay off workers who may be hard to replace.

AFP

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