The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose from a more than 48 1/2-year low last week, but continued to point to a tightening labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 217,000 for the week ended July 21, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims dropped to 208,000 during the week ended July 14, which was the lowest reading since December 1969.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 215,000 in the latest week. Claims data tends to be volatile around this time of the year when motor vehicle manufacturers shut assembly lines for annual retooling.
The Labor Department said only claims for Maine were estimated last week.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 2,750 to 218,000 last week, the lowest reading since mid-May.
The labor market is viewed as being near or at full employment. Employment gains averaged 215,000 jobs per month in the first half of this year.
The claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid dropped 8,000 to 1.75 million in the week ended July 14. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims rose 9,500 to 1.75 million.
The continuing claims data covered the week of the household survey from which July's unemployment rate will be derived. The four-week average of continuing claims rose by 25,750 between the June and July survey periods suggesting little change in the unemployment rate.
The jobless rate rose two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.0 percent in June as more Americans entered the labor force, in a sign of confidence in the labor market.