WASHINGTON – The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell for a second straight week, further evidence of the strength of the labor market.
The Labor Department said Thursday that claims for jobless benefits last week dropped by 8,000, to a seasonally adjusted 237,000. The less-volatile four-week average rose by 1,000 to 243,000.
Applications for unemployment benefits are a proxy for layoffs. They’ve come in below 300,000, a historically low figure, for 119 straight weeks, the longest such stretch since 1970. Overall, 1.94 million people were collecting unemployment checks, down 10.2 percent from a year ago.
Various indicators show the job market is healthy even though hiring has slowed lately, partly because employers are having trouble finding workers. The jobless rate fell in May to a 16-year low of 4.3 percent.
The economy has generated 162,000 jobs a month so far this year – up from an average of 157,000 a month from January through May last year but down from an average of 187,000 a month for all of 2016.
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve, noting the strong job market, voted to boost a key interest rate for the third time in six months, pushing its federal funds rate up by a quarter-point to a new range of 1 percent to 1.25 percent. The Fed signaled that it intended to raise rates one more time this year.
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