WASHINGTON — More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but jobless claims remained at levels consistent with a healthy labor market.
THE NUMBERS: The Labor Department said Thursday that claims rose by 1,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 260,000. Applications have come in below 300,000 for 80 straight weeks, longest streak since 1970. The less volatile four-week average slipped last week by 500 to 260,750.
The number of Americans collecting unemployment checks is 2.14 million, down nearly 5 percent from a year ago.
THE TAKEAWAY: Applications for unemployment benefits are a proxy for measuring layoffs. The low level of claims suggests that most Americans enjoy job security.
KEY DRIVERS: The unemployment rate is at a healthy 4.9 percent. Employers have added more than 200,000 jobs a month over the past year — though hiring slowed to 151,000 in August.
Another Labor Department report last week showed that job openings rose 4 percent in July but hiring only increased 1 percent. The disconnect suggests that employers are struggling to find qualified workers.
The job market has been solid even though the American economy has sputtered since late last year. The economy expanded at an unimpressive 1.1 percent annual pace from April through June after growing just 0.8 percent in the first quarter and 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.