The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits increased moderately last week, suggesting the labor market remains on solid footing even as the economy is slowing.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 215,000 for the week ended May 25, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 215,000 in the latest week. The Labor Department said claims for California, Delaware, Kansas, Virginia and Puerto Rico were estimated last week because of Monday's Memorial Day holiday.
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 3,750 to 216,750 last week.
Continuing strength in labor market conditions is seen supporting growth amid signs that economic activity is slowing after a temporary boost from volatile exports and inventory accumulation in the first quarter. Industrial production, durable goods orders, retail and homes sales all fell in April.
The Atlanta Federal Reserve is forecasting gross domestic product rising at a 1.3% pace in the second quarter. The economy grew at a 3.1% annualized rate in the January-March quarter.
Thursday's claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 26,000 to 1.66 million for the week ended May 18. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims declined 3,500 to 1.67 million.
The continuing claims data covered the period that households were surveyed for May's unemployment rate. The four-week average of continuing claims fell 15,000 between the April and May household survey periods suggesting little change in the unemployment rate.
The jobless rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 3.6% in April, the lowest level in nearly 50 years.