August 21, 2014 8:35 AM, EDT
Jobless Claims Decline by 14,000 Last Week
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

Fewer Americans than forecast applied for unemployment benefits last week, a sign the U.S. job market is making progress as the world’s largest economy grows.

Jobless claims fell by 14,000 to 298,000 in the week ended Aug. 16, a Labor Department report showed.

The median forecast of 46 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for 303,000. Continuing claims fell to the lowest level in more than seven years.

Employers are holding the line on dismissals as second-half economic growth is projected to pick up, setting the stage for more hiring to meet demand.

“The job market is doing well right now, there’s no doubt about it,” said Guy Berger, an economist at RBS Securities Inc., who projected 295,000 claims. “There’s a good chance we’ll get another solid month of payrolls. Lower layoffs, together with faster hiring, mean better prospects for consumer spending.”

No states were estimated and there were no special factors, the Labor Department report showed.

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from claims of 285,000 to 315,000. The Labor Department revised the previous week’s figure to 312,000 from an initially reported 311,000.

The monthly average of claims, a less volatile measure than the weekly figures, rose to 300,750 last week from 296,000.

The number of people on jobless benefit rolls declined by 49,000 to 2.5 million in the week ended Aug. 9. It’s at the lowest level since June 2007, before the last recession began.