Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell by 11,000 for the week ending July 5, bringing claims to a seasonally adjusted 304,000. The number was lower than the 319,000 new claims forecast by economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal.
The four-week moving average, which helps even out any volatility in the numbers, fell by 3,500 to 311,500, with the Labor Department revising claims numbers for the week ending June 28 to 315,000.
Numbers released this week were the third-lowest this year and are encouraging for economists who have been concerned with the sluggish pace of recovery in the labor market.
Claims are traditionally volatile this time of year due to vacation periods and summer shutdowns in the auto manufacturing industry. This could cause an increase in claims in coming weeks.
"Sooner or later...the auto shutdowns will hit the claims data," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
While the unemployment rate hovers around 6.1 percent and has shown steady improvement, the labor market suggests that most people would prefer full-time employment as opposed to the part-time jobs they are currently working.