Initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped last week, indicating the labor market is strengthening.
Applications for jobless benefits fell 14,000 from the prior week to 289,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists had expected new claims to rise.
The low level of claims suggests the labor market has “shifted to a higher gear,” Credit Suisse analyst Xiao Cui said in a research note.
The four-week moving average, which erases some of the volatility in the numbers, dropped 4,000 to 293,500 – the lowest level since February 2006, well before the Great Recession.
Claims for the week ended July 26 were revised up by 1,000 to 303,000.
The Labor Department numbers follow several positive reports for the economy.
July was the sixth straight month that the U.S. added more than 200,000 net new jobs – a streak not seen since 1997, at the onset of the dot-com boom.