U.S. jobless claims fall to 346,000 in latest week

Initial state unemployment benefits claims drop by 9,000

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week in line with the recent moderate pace of jobs growth.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 346,000, the U.S. Labor Department said on June 27. Claims for the previous week were revised to show 1,000 more applications than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to fall to 345,000 last week.

The four-week moving average for new claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 2,750 to 345,750.

No states had been estimated and there were no special factors in the state data, a Labor Department analyst said.

Employers added 175,000 new jobs to their payrolls last month, with the unemployment rate ticking up a tenth of a percentage point to 7.6 per cent. Job gains have averaged 172,000 over the last 12 months.

The Federal Reserve, which has been closely monitoring the labour market, said after its policy-setting meeting last week downside risks to the outlook for the jobs market had diminished since the fall.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank could trim the $85 billion in bonds it has been buying each month to keep interest rates low and bolster the economy sometime later this year and likely bring the program to a close by mid-2014.

The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 1,000 to 2.965 million in the week ended June 15.

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