Jobless claims declined by 3,000 to 302,000 in the week ended July 12, the Labor Department reported.
The median forecast of 51 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News projected 310,000. The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits fell to a seven-year low.
Waning dismissals are signaling the labor market is gaining additional momentum five years since the end of the last recession. A pickup in hiring and drop in unemployment are among reasons Federal Reserve officials are reducing monthly asset purchases and plan to bring an end to the stimulus program by the end of the year.
Claims are “consistent with healthy labor market turnover,” said Yelena Shulyatyeva, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas. “The economy is really telling us it’s improving.”
Estimates in the Bloomberg survey of economists ranged from 300,000 to 325,000. The Labor Department revised the prior week’s reading to 305,000 from an initially reported 304,000.
Last week’s report covers the week of the government survey that will be used to calculate July payroll and unemployment data.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 79,000 to 2.51 million in the week ended July 5, the fewest since June 2007. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits fell to 1.9 percent from 2 percent, today’s report showed.
More muted firings typically pave the way for acceleration in job growth. Employers added 288,000 jobs in June, lifting the average monthly advance so far in 2014 to almost 231,000. If that pace is sustained, job gains this year would be the best since 1999.