Throughout the economy, layoffs have fallen so much that the number of people seeking unemployment benefits plunged last week to a seasonally adjusted 284,000, a low last achieved in February 2006. And after accounting for U.S. population growth, the number of people applying for unemployment aid has reached its lowest point since 1999.
The four-week average of applications, which smooths out week-to-week fluctuations, has dropped to 302,000 from 348,500 when the year began.
"In the weeks that follow," said Michelle Girard, chief economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, "claims look likely to hold at or below the 300,000 mark."
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The sharp decline has paralleled healthy monthly employment reports. Employers added a net 288,000 jobs in June, capping the first five-month stretch of gains above 200,000 since 1999 at the height of the dot-com boom.
The consensus forecast of economists is that the government will announce next week that employers added 225,000 jobs in July, according to a survey by the data firm FactSet.
Not every company is avoiding layoffs. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that it would cut 18,000 workers - the biggest layoffs in its 39-year history. But layoff announcements now mainly reflect strategic changes within individual companies, rather than broader economic conditions, Naroff said.