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[WASHINGTON] The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in eight weeks, suggesting the labour market continued to strengthen despite the recent tightening in financial market conditions.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 264,000 for the week ended Sept 12, the Labour Department said on Thursday. That was the lowest reading since the week ended July 18.
It was the 28th straight week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is usually associated with a strengthening labour market.
Claims for the prior week were unrevised. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims holding at 275,000 last week.
The data covered the Labour Day holiday and claims tend to be volatile around holidays. A Labour Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing the data.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labour market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 3,250 to 272,500 last week.
The labour market has remained on solid footing, despite a recent global stock market sell-off, which has lowered the probability of a Federal Reserve interest rate hike this week.
The claims data covered the period during which the government surveyed employers for the nonfarm payrolls portion of the September employment report. Claims fell 13,000 between the August and September survey weeks, suggesting some pick-up in job growth.
The economy added 173,000 jobs in August, a step down from July's gain of 245,000 positions that was dismissed by economists as an aberration given that job openings are at a record high, which suggests solid labour demand in the near term.
Thursday's claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 26,000 to 2.24 million in the week ended Sept 5.