July 31, 2014 8:30 AM, EDT
Jobless Claims in Past Month Drop to Eight-Year Low
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment insurance benefits over the past month than at any time in more than eight years, signaling employers are hanging on to workers as demand improves.

The four-week average of jobless claims, considered a less volatile measure than the weekly figure, dropped to 297,250, the lowest since April 2006, from 300,750 the prior week. Claims in the period ended July 26 climbed to 302,000, in line with the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, from a revised 279,000 the prior week that was the lowest since 2000.

While auto plant shutdowns during this time of year make it more difficult for the government to adjust the data for seasonal variations, the declining trend points to a job market that is heating up.

“Employment growth remains healthy,” said David Sloan, a senior economist at 4Cast Inc. The reading is “consistent with a strong labor market.”

The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected claims would increase to 300,000. Estimates ranged from 280,000 to 320,000. The Labor Department revised the prior week’s reading from an initially reported 284,000.