WASHINGTON » New jobless claims fell last week for the third time in four weeks but remain elevated. The decline is a sign that the economy likely added jobs in July, although not enough to lower the nation’s high unemployment rate.
First-time claims for unemployment insurance dropped by 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 457,000, the Labor Department said yesterday.
Claims have fluctuated this month because of temporary seasonal factors. General Motors and other manufacturers skipped their traditional summer shutdowns, which led to fewer layoffs and unemployment claims. But the impact of that distortion has largely faded from the data, a Labor Department analyst said.
The four-week average of claims, which smooths fluctuations, dropped to 452,500, the lowest level since May.
That suggests layoffs could be easing. And the four-week average is slightly below its June level, which indicates that private employers likely added about the same number of jobs in July as they did last month. The Labor Department will issue its July employment report next week.
"The rate of jobless claims is consistent with some growth in total employment," said Zach Pandl, an economist at Nomura Securities. Pandl forecasts that businesses added about 85,000 jobs in July—about the same as in June but not enough to reduce the unemployment rate, currently at 9.5 percent.
The number of people continuing to claim unemployment benefits rose by 81,000 to 4.57 million. That does not include an additional 3.67 million of the unemployed who are receiving extended benefits paid for by the federal government.