U.S. jobless claims decline for second straight week
WASHINGTON, July 3 (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell for a second straight week last week, pointing to a steady pace of job gains.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 343,000, the Labor Department said on Wednesday. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 2,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to fall slightly to 345,000 last week.
The four-week moving average of new claims, which is considered a better measure of labor market conditions, dipped 750 to 345,500.
A Labor Department analyst said no states had been estimated and there was nothing unusual in the state-level data. After making progress early in the year, claims have not changed much over the past months.
Last week's claims data has no bearing on the government's closely watched employment report for June as it falls outside the survey period. The report will be released on Friday.
Nonfarm payrolls are expected to have increased 165,000 in June, according to a Reuters survey of economists, a touch below May's tally of 175,000 jobs. That would be higher than the monthly average of 155,800 over the past three months.
The unemployment rate is expected to fall a tenth of a percentage point to 7.5 percent. The employment report could shed fresh clues on the timing of the Federal Reserve's plan to start scaling back its monetary stimulus.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said last month the U.S. central bank expected to trim its bond purchases later this year and halt the program by mid-2014, as long as the economy progresses as it expects.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 54,000 to 2.93 million in the week ended June 22.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Neil Stempleman)