Jobless claims hold steady

jobless claims
Job seekers at a recent job fair in New York City.

The number of people filing for their first week of unemployment benefits was unchanged last week, following three straight weeks of increases, the government said Thursday.

The Labor Department said 374,000 people filed first-time jobless claims in the week ended Aug. 25. That was slightly more than the forecasts of economists surveyed by The previous week's reading was raised from the initially reported 372,000.

About 3.3 million received their second week or more of unemployment benefits during the week.

Related: Check the unemployment rate in your state

Next Friday, the Labor Department will report on the number of jobs and unemployment rate for August, the government's key economic reading of the month. The July report showed some renewed strength as employers added 163,000, the biggest jump in payrolls since February. But the unemployment rate rose to 8.3% in that report.

Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics, said the weakness in the jobless claims filings in the past few weeks suggest that the August jobs report is going to fall far short of the gain in July. He's forecasting only a 100,000 increase in payrolls in next Friday's report.

"It certainly doesn't suggest that employment growth is going to take off," he said. "The claims appear stuck in this range. That just suggests to me that market conditions remain fairly stable."

The four-week moving average for initial jobless claims rose by 1,500 to 370,250.

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