The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits fell by 10,000 last week but remained at levels that show labor markets under severe strain.
The Labor Department said on Thursday initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits dipped to a seasonally adjusted 450,000 in the week ended Aug. 9 from an upwardly revised 460,000 in the prior week. That was still well above the 432,000 claims level that economists polled by Reuters had forecast.
The last time that weekly claims fell was at the start of July.
But a four-week moving average of new jobless claims, regarded as a better gauge of underlying labor trends because it irons out week-to-week volatility, climbed to 440,500 last week from 421,000 the week before. That was the highest reading in more than six years, since it hit 445,500 in April 2002.
In addition, the number of people remaining in the benefits roll after drawing an initial week of aid shot up by 114,000 to 3.42 million in the week ended Aug. 2 , the most recent week for which the data is available. That was the highest level for continued claims since November 2003.
Most economists consider a reading above 400,000 for weekly claims as indicating recession-like conditions. New-claim filings have topped 400,000 for each of the past four weeks.