Skip to main content

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, a sign the labor market was holding firm despite tensions between the United States and its trading partners that have spawned restrictions on global commerce.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 210,000 for the week ended Aug. 18, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

It was the third straight week of declines for claims, which have dropped so low that economists have scrambled for explanations. In July, claims fell to their lowest level since 1969 even though the workforce is much larger than in prior decades.

Story continues below advertisement

Economists polled by Reuters ahead of Thursday’s report had forecast claims rising to 215,000 in the latest week.

The signs of strength in the U.S. labor market have been a key reason behind the Federal Reserve’s ongoing campaign to raise interest rates.

Minutes of the U.S. central bank’s last policy meeting, published on Wednesday, showed officials discussed raising rates soon to counter excessive economic strength, although policymakers also examined how global trade disputes could batter businesses and households.

The Fed has already raised rates twice this year and is widely expected to do so again in September.

The claims data is being closely watched for signs of layoffs as a result of the Trump administration’s protectionist trade policy, which has led to an escalating trade war with China and tit-for-tat import tariffs with trading partners, including the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

While there have been reports of some companies either laying off workers or planning to as a result of the import duties, that is not yet evident in the claims data.

Economists say a robust economy is helping the labor market weather the trade storm.

Story continues below advertisement

The Labor Department said data for Maine were estimated in the latest week. The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, dropped 1,750 last week to 213,750.

The claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid dropped 2,000 to 1.73 million for the week ended Aug. 11. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims fell 5,000 to 1.74 million.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter