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June 19, 2014 8:35 AM, EDT
Jobless Claims Fell Last Week as Labor Market Heals
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign of steady progress in the labor market.

Jobless claims fell 6,000 to 312,000 in the week ended June 14, the Labor Department reported. The median forecast of 50 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for 313,000. The total number of people collecting benefits decreased to the lowest level in almost seven years.

Firings have been skirting pre-recession lows, and companies are hiring as they look for a sustained pickup in household purchases. Payroll growth that is on pace for its best year since 1999 will need to spur bigger gains in wages for spending to accelerate and contribute more to the economic expansion.

“The trend in initial claims is good,” said Ryan Sweet, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. “The job market continues to heal.”

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 295,000 to 321,000. The Labor Department revised the prior week’s reading to 318,000 from an initially reported 317,000.

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, declined to 311,750 from 315,500 the week before.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 54,000 to 2.56 million in the week ended June 7, the fewest since October 2007.

Fewer firings typically signal an acceleration in job growth. Employers added 217,000 workers to payrolls in May, lifting the average monthly advance this year to 213,600.