The fewest workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits over the past month since before the last recession, indicating the labor market is making progress.
The number of claims in the four weeks ended Aug. 3 declined to 335,500 on average, the least since November 2007, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. They rose to 333,000 last week, in line with the median forecast of 50 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, from 328,000 the prior week.
The level of firings is settling into a lower range following swings in July caused by annual auto plant shutdowns, showing employers want to hold on to workers to meet sales. That may be a precursor to a pickup in hiring, which will sustain household spending, the biggest part of the economy, and underpin growth in the second half of 2013.
“We’ll continue to see improvement,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the third-best claims forecaster over the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “It’s more important to put the emphasis on the trend in claims, which remains favorable.”
Stock-index futures held earlier gains after the report. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in September climbed 0.4 percent to 1,694.7 at 8:50 a.m. in New York.
No states were estimated, and there was nothing unusual in the state data last week, a Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released to the press.
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