Gauge of U.S. layoffs falls to pre-recession level

New jobless claims rise 5,000 in latest week

WASHINGTON (Reuters)  A gauge of the trend in layoffs of American workers fell last week to its lowest since before the 2007-09 recession, a hopeful sign for the U.S. economy.

The four-week average of new claims for state jobless benefits dropped to 335,500, the U.S Labor Department said on Aug. 8. The reading has not been that low since November 2007, just before the United States fell into a calamitous recession.

Now it appears that a long cycle of aggressive layoffs, which had fueled a surge in unemployment and helped shape two presidential elections, is over.

Still, employers have appeared reticent to hire, and the data still pointed to only modest economic growth. Last week, initial jobless claims edged 5,000 higher to 333,000, a little less than expected.

While layoffs are roughly half their level in early 2009, the recovery in job creation has been more lackluster.

Employers added just 162,000 workers to payrolls in July. Economic growth has also trended lower in recent months, with national output growing at a mere 1.4 per cent annual rate in the first half of the year, down from 2.5 per cent in the same period of 2012.

New jobless claims were volatile in July due to regular summer auto plant shutdowns, which make it hard for the government to adjust the data for seasonal swings.

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