Weekly unemployment claims drop by 11,000

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WASHINGTON — Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign the job market continues to strengthen.

Jobless claims declined by 11,000 to 304,000 in the week ended July 5, the fewest in more than a month, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 45 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 315,000. There was nothing unusual in the data and no states were estimated, a spokesman said as the figures were released.

Combined with data last week that showed payrolls exceeded expectations in June and the unemployment rate fell to an almost six-year low, the drop in firings signals a rebound in second-half economic growth. As demand improves, employers will probably take on more workers, helping to lift consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy.

“The declining trend in claims is very encouraging, and is further evidence that the strong payrolls number we saw for June is not a fluke,” said Ryan Sweet, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pa., and the most accurate forecaster of jobless claims in the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “The labor market is gaining momentum. This is consistent with strong gains in consumer spending.”

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from claims of 300,000 to 350,000. The previous week’s figure was unrevised at 315,000.

The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure than the weekly figures, dropped to 311,500 last week from 315,000.

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