Jobless claims rise modestly but remain low

Last week's 317,000 first-time jobless claims were consistent with an improving labor market

Jobless claims rose modestly last week but remained low, indicating that the labor market is continuing to grow at a solid pace.

The number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits increased to 317,000 in the week ended Saturday, up from the previous week's revised figure of 313,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Economists had expected claims to drop to 309,000 last week.

The four-week average, which smoothes out some volatility, rose by 4,750 last week, to 315,250. The previous week, the average had hit its lowest level since June 2007, six months before the Great Recession began.

Overall, the number of people receiving benefits rose by 11,000, to 2.61 million, in the week ended May 31, the most recent data available from the Labor Department. But the four-week average for that figure fell to 2.62 million, the fewest since November 2007.

The level of jobless claims, which are watched closely as a gauge of the labor market, remained consistent with solid monthly jobs growth.

The government reported last week that the economy added 217,000 net new jobs in May as the nation finally recovered all 8.7 million jobs lost in the Great Recession.

Job growth has averaged 197,000 over the last year, which has helped heal the labor market, but the pace is slow as many of those jobs are needed just to keep up with population growth.

Economists expect the recovery to accelerate for the rest of the year after a winter slowdown caused by severe weather.

The National Assn. for Business Economics forecast this week that the economy would expand at a robust 3.5% rate in the second quarter and over 3% for the rest of the year. It projected average monthly job growth would pick up to 209,000 through 2015.

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