U.S. Jobless Claims Fell to a 49-Year Low Last Week

WASHINGTON—The number of Americans filing applications for new unemployment benefits fell at the end of August to a nearly five-decade low.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., declined by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 203,000 in the week ended Sept. 1, the Labor Department said Thursday. This is the lowest level of unemployment benefit applications since the end of 1969.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected 211,000 new claims last week.

Though data can be volatile from week to week, the four-week moving average of claims, a steadier measure, also fell to a 49-year low. The measure dropped to 209,500.

Jobless claims have remained low in recent years, as the labor market continues to tighten and managers face difficulty finding qualified employees.

U.S. employers added 157,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell back to 3.9% in July, hovering near the lowest level since April 2000, according to the Labor Department’s latest jobs report. Meanwhile, the overall labor-force participation rate, defined as the share of the adult population either working or looking for work, has been little changed over the past four years. The share of the population with jobs, however, has steadily climbed.

Thursday’s report showed the number of claims workers made for longer than a week fell by 3,000 to 1,707,000 in the week ended Aug. 25. The figure, also known as continuing claims, is reported with a one-week lag.

Write to Sharon Nunn at sharon.nunn@wsj.com and Eric Morath at eric.morath@wsj.com

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