Unemployment benefit claims rise marginally

Employers planned layoffs rise 19 percent in July

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The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, while renewed job cuts in the energy sector boosted layoffs announced by U.S.-based employers in July.

Despite the increases, the labor market remains healthy and will probably continue to support economic growth for the remainder of this year.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 269,000 for the week ended July 30, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists had forecast initial claims slipping to 265,000 in the latest week.

“This level of unemployment claims points to continued very subdued layoff rates at the start of the third quarter,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York.

Claims have been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a strong labor market, for 74 consecutive weeks, the longest streak since 1973. With the labor market perceived to be either at or approaching full employment, there is probably limited scope for further declines in claims.

Claims tend to be volatile around this time of the year when automobile manufacturers typically idle assembly lines for retooling. Some keep production running, which can throw off the model the government uses to strip out seasonal fluctuations from the data.

Through the gyrations, the trend in claims has remained consistent with jobs market strength. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 3,750 to 260,250 last week.

In a separate report, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas said employers in the U.S. announced plans to shed 45,346 workers from their payrolls in July, a 19 percent increase from June.

Though it was the second straight monthly increase, layoffs were 57 percent lower than in July last year. Job cuts in the energy sector surged 796 percent to 17,725 last month.

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