The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits fell to a three-month low last week, pointing to sustained labor market strength even as the economy appears to be losing momentum.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 206,000 for the week ended July 20, the lowest level since mid-April, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was unrevised.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims would increase to 219,000 in the latest week. The Labor Department said no claims 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 5,750 to 213,000 last week.
Layoffs remain low despite a bitter trade war between the United States and China, which has helped to cloud the economic outlook and boost expectations the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates next Wednesday for the first time in a decade.
Thursday's claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 13,000 to 1.68 million for the week ended July 13. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims slipped 4,500 to 1.70 million.
The continuing claims data covered the week the government surveyed households for July's unemployment rate.
The four-week average of continuing claims rose 9,000 between the June and July survey weeks, suggesting little change in the jobless rate this month. The unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.7% in June.