Ap­pli­ca­tions for U.S. un­em­ploy­ment aid tick higher to 254,000

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Christo­pher S. Ru­gaber AP Eco­nomics Writer

More Amer­i­cans sought un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits last week but the num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions re­mained low, the lat­est sign that lay­offs are scarce.

THE NUM­BERS >> The La­bor De­part­ment said Thurs­day that weekly ap­pli­ca­tions for job­less aid rose 3,000 to a sea­son­ally ad­justed 254,000. The four-week av­er­age, a less volatile mea­sure, ticked down to 256,000, match­ing a 43-year low first reached in April.

The num­ber of peo­ple re­ceiv­ing aid dropped 46,000 to 2.1 mil­lion, the small­est num­ber since July, 2000. Even in a healthy econ­omy some peo­ple lose jobs as com­pa­nies re­struc­ture.

THE TAKE­AWAY >> The econ­omy is ex­pand­ing, though at a slug­gish pace, grow­ing just 1.4 per­cent in the AprilJune quar­ter, ac­cord­ing to a sep­a­rate gov­ern­ment re­port Thurs­day.

But busi­nesses are hir­ing steadily and hold­ing tightly to their staffs. With the un­em­ploy­ment rate low at 4.9 per­cent, many em­ploy­ers say they can’t find qual­i­fied work­ers for open po­si­tions. That makes them re­luc­tant to cut jobs.

Ap­pli­ca­tions are a proxy for lay­offs. Any fig­ure be­low 300,000 is a sign of a healthy job mar­ket.

Ap­pli­ca­tions have been be­low that level for 82 weeks, the long­est such streak since 1970.

KEY DRIV­ERS >> Em­ploy­ers added 151,000 jobs in Au­gust, af­ter two big gains in June and July. Still, the pace of gains has slowed this year from 2014 and 2015.

Econ­o­mists largely ex­pected the de­cel­er­a­tion, which typ­i­cally oc­curs as the un­em­ploy­ment rate falls and fewer peo­ple are avail­able to take avail­able jobs.

Still, con­sumers are more con­fi­dent and spend­ing more, pro­vid­ing a foun­da­tion for mod­estly faster growth later this year. Con­sumer con­fi­dence last month reached its high­est point since the re­ces­sion, ac­cord­ing to the Con­fer­ence Board.

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