Applications for unemployment benefits slipped last week

WASHINGTON -- Slightly fewer people filed for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, a sign the American job market remains healthy.

The Labor Department says applications for jobless aid slipped by 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 261,000. The less volatile four-week average dropped 1,250 to 264,000. Overall, the number of people receiving unemployment checks fell by 30,000 to 2.15 million, down 5 percent from a year earlier.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have remained below 300,000 for 77 straight weeks, the longest streak since 1970. The current reading is even more impressive because the population has grown considerably since then.

“The broken record plays on in a good way in that the pace of firing’s remains modest,” Peter Boockvar, managing director and chief market analyst at the Linsey Group said in a note to clients.

The U.S. unemployment rate is 4.9 percent. Employers added 255,000 jobs in July and 292,000 in June. Hiring is strong even though the economy has registered lackluster growth since late 2015.