The number of people filing new applications for U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week but remained at levels consistent with improving labor-market conditions, while the total number of people receiving jobless benefits fell to the lowest level in more than seven years, the government reported Thursday.
The Labor Department said initial jobless claims increased 4,000 to 302,000 last week. Economists expected a smaller increase.
The four-week moving average of claims—considered a better measure of labor-market trends because it smoothes weekly volatility—rose 3,000 to 302,750. Still, both new claims and the moving average continued to point to a strengthening jobs market.
The number of people still receiving unemployment benefits fell 64,000 to 2.46 million last week, the lowest level since June 2007.
Meanwhile, a report Thursday from payrolls processor ADP showed that U.S. companies hired 204,000 workers in August, below analyst projections as well as the 212,000 hired July. Private-sector hiring has slowed for two consecutive months after hitting 281,000 in June, the strongest month since November 2012.
The jobless-claims report has no bearing on the government’s August employment report as it falls outside the survey period, while the ADP report is less comprehensive than the one from the Labor Department.
Economists expect the government to say Friday that non-farm payrolls increased by 225,000 last month after rising by 209,000 in July. It would be the seventh consecutive month that job gains have exceeded 200,000, the longest such period since 1997. The unemployment rate is expected to have declined 0.1 percentage point to 6.1 percent.