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U.S. jobless claims fall by 6,000

Published August 9, 2012 7:37 am

Unemployment • Numbers give mildly positive sign labor markets are mending.
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Washington • The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell by 6,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 361,000, a level consistent with modest gains in hiring.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average rose by 2,250 to 368,250 in the week that ended Aug. 4.

In Utah, claims for benefits climbed to 1,618 from 1,473 in the previous week. The four-week average fell to 1,620 from 1,718, according to the state Department of Workforce Services.

Across the U.S., weekly applications bounced around in July, skewed by the difficulty of accounting for temporary summertime layoffs in the auto industry. The seasonal distortions had faded by last week.

Applications measure the pace of layoffs. When they consistently fall below 375,000, it typically suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said fewer unemployment applications suggest that job market is fairly stable.

"The pick-up in jobs growth in July may therefore be sustained in August," Dales said.

The economy added 163,000 jobs in July, the biggest increase since February. From April through June, employers had created a lackluster 73,000 jobs a month, not enough to keep up with a rising population. The total number of people receiving some kind of benefits also fell. Nearly 5.8 million received aid in the week that ended July 21, the most recent data available. That's 200,000 less than a week earlier.

Despite the improvement in hiring in July, the jobless rate ticked up to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent in June.