WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits rose moderately last week, pointing to sustained labor market strength.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 213,000 for the week ended Sept. 21, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was revised to show 2,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims increasing to 212,00 in the latest week. The Labor Department said only claims for Puerto Rico were estimated last week.
Despite trade tensions, which have weighed on business investment and manufacturing, layoffs remain low. That is helping to underpin consumer spending, which is largely driving the economy.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 750 to 212,000 last week.
The number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid declined 15,000 to 1.65 million for the week ended Sept. 14, the lowest level since October 2018. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims decreased 12,750 to 1.67 million.
Continuing claims data covered the week during which households were surveyed for September’s unemployment rate. The four-week average of claims fell 32,500 between the August and September household survey weeks suggesting some improvement in the jobless rate, which is currently at 3.7%.
The economy created 130,000 jobs in August. Economists say it is unclear whether the loss of momentum in hiring is due to ebbing demand for labor or a shortage of qualified workers.
While job growth has slowed to an average of 158,000 per month this year from 223,000 in 2018, it remains above the roughly 100,000 per month needed to keep up with growth in the working age population.
Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci