The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits increased moderately last week, pointing to still strong labor market conditions despite signs that economic activity was slowing.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 216,000 for the week ended July 13, the Labor Department said on Thursday, putting them in the middle of their 193,000-230,000 range for this year.
Data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 fewer applications received than previously reported. Last week's increase in claims was in line with economists' expectations.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, dipped 250 to 218,750 last week.
The Labor Department said no claims were estimated last week. The claims data tends to be volatile around this time of the year because of summer factory closures, especially in the automobile industry, which occur at different periods.
This can throw off the model the government uses to strip out seasonal fluctuations from the data.
Layoffs remain low despite a bitter trade war between the United States and China, which has contributed to a dimming of the economy's outlook and led the Federal Reserve to signal it would cut interest rates at its July 30-31 meeting for the first time in a decade.
Last week's claims data covered the survey period for the nonfarm payrolls component of July's employment report. The four-week moving average of claims was little changed between the June and July survey periods, suggesting steady job growth this month. The economy created 224,000 jobs in June.
While the labor market remains strong, there are concerns that a shortage of workers and the Trump administration's tougher stance on immigration could impede job growth.
The Fed's Beige Book report of anecdotal information on business activity collected from contacts nationwide published on Wednesday showed some manufacturing and information technology firms in the Northeast reduced their number of workers from mid-May through early July.
It said "a few reports highlighted concerns about securing and renewing work visas, flagging this as a source of uncertainty for continued employment growth."
Solid job growth is helping to underpin the economy, which is slowing as last year's massive stimulus from tax cuts and more government spending fades. Manufacturing is struggling, the trade deficit is widening again and the housing market remains weak, partially offsetting strong consumer spending.
Thursday's claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 42,000 to 1.69 million for the week ended July 6. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims rose 5,000 to 1.70 million.