Economists say that July is a difficult month to measure initial applications for unemployment because of summer layoffs in the auto industry, which spends weeks retooling, and the Independence Day holiday. But this year most U.S. automakers did not lay workers off for retooling, or only did so for one week, because higher car sales have put pressure on production lines.
A less volatile measure, the four-week running average, dropped to 346,000, down 5,250 from the previous week's revised average of 351,250. For 2012, the weekly average was 375,000. For the first six-and-a-half months of 2013, including the most recent report, the weekly average is running 351,000.
For the week ending June 29, the number of people claiming benefits in both state and the federal emergency unemployment compensation programs was 4,519,501, down 1,903 from the previous week. For the comparable week of 2012, 5,753,820 persons claimed benefits in both programs. The number is lower because some people have found jobs and some have exhausted their eligiblity for compensation.