Last week, 320,000 Americans filed for new unemployment insurance claims. That's 15,000 fewer than the previous week and the lowest count since late 2007.
While jobless claim data can be volatile, the smoother four-week moving average also fell from 336,000 to 332,000, suggesting a downward trend. Initial claims are also far lower than one year ago, when they stood at 367,000.
"The trend is clearly down and we are nearing a pace of claims that would signal solid to strong job growth," says Joel Naroff, president and chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors, an economic consulting firm based in Holland, Pa. Because of the strong numbers, he says he believes the next jobs report could be an improvement over recent months.
"I would not be surprised if the August payroll gain was at least 200,000 and probably higher," he adds. That would be a marked improvement over July's 162,000 new jobs. The last time the U.S. added more than 200,000 jobs in one month was February, when employers added 332,000 jobs. However, April came close, with 199,000.
While jobless claims fell considerably last week, there were few large changes on a state-by-state basis. Oregon was the only state that saw a decrease of more than 1,000 new claims, with 1,638 fewer than the week prior. Meanwhile, California had the largest gain, with 3,715 new claims, which the state attributed to layoffs in the service industry. Ohio had 1,300 new claims, attributed in part to manufacturing layoffs, and Texas had over 1,100 new claims, giving no comment as to why.