The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, suggesting that the labor market remained tight despite a downturn in industry and concerns the economy is on the path of recession.
Initial state unemployment benefit claims dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 209,000 for the week ending Aug. 17, the Labor Department said Thursday. Last week's data was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.
The decline was sharper than expected. Economists polled by Reuters had predicted claims would fall to 21
The four-week moving average of initial requirements, considered a better measure of labor market developments as it boosts week-to-week volatility, increased 500 to 214,500 last week.
Last week's data requirements fall during the same week that the Labor Department conducts surveys that were used to estimate national employment during August.
Four-week averages for new unemployment benefits were lower than the corresponding week in July, a positive signal for hiring during the month.