Business

US claims for jobless aid slide to lowest level since July

In this Thursday, June 9, 2016, photo, a sign advertising job opportunities with Sears, hangs near an entrance to the store, in LaJolla, Calif. On Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, the Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits the previous week. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

In this Thursday, June 9, 2016, photo, a sign advertising job opportunities with Sears, hangs near an entrance to the store, in LaJolla, Calif. On Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, the Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits the previous week. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since July, more evidence that U.S. workers are enjoying job security.

THE NUMBERS: The Labor Department said Thursday that jobless claims slid by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 252,000. That matched the level in mid-July, which was the lowest since April. The less-volatile four-week average fell by 2,250 to 258,500. Weekly claims have come in below 300,000 for 81 straight weeks, longest such streak since 1970.

The number of people collecting unemployment benefits is 2.11 million, down nearly 6 per cent from a year ago.

THE TAKEAWAY: Applications for unemployment benefits are a proxy for measuring layoffs. The low level of claims suggests that companies are holding onto staff.

"The labour market remains rock solid," Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities, wrote in a research note.

KEY DRIVERS: Unemployment is at a healthy 4.9 per cent . Employers have added 204,000 jobs a month over the past year, though hiring slowed to 151,000 in August. The job market is robust despite a sluggish economy. Economic growth came in at an unimpressive 1.1 per cent annual pace from April through June after growing just 0.8 per cent in the first quarter and 0.9 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2015.

In a separate report, the Labor Department reported earlier that job openings rose 4 per cent in July but hiring just 1 per cent . That suggests employers are struggling to find qualified workers.