The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week remained historically low.
Jobless claims increased by 4,000 to 277,000 in the week ended Aug. 15, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast of 48 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected 271,000. Applications have been lower than 300,000, a level typically associated with an improving job market, since early March.
The subdued level of firings has been accompanied by falling unemployment and steady job gains, signs the labor market continues to heal in its seventh year of recovery. Bigger advances in wages will be needed in addition to the strengthened job security to help convince consumers to boost spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy.
Claims are “still close to their lowest level in several decades, and that’s a good sign,” said Ryan Wang, an economist at HSBC Securities USA Inc. in New York, whose forecast was among the closest in the Bloomberg survey. “It’s a stable, low level of claims.”
Thursday’s report may help color economists’ forecasts for August job gains, as the data were collected during the same week that serves as the reference period for monthly employment report surveys.