U.S. jobs growth remains on a hot streak, if business at state unemployment agencies is any indication.
New claims for unemployment benefits dropped 5,000 to 240,000 in the last week of July, the Department of Labor reported Thursday.
Investors had expected jobless claims to stay steady at 244,000.
Low jobless claims are a good sign for the economy. Economists calculate that any number below 300,000 means that the unemployment rate is going to stay steady or fall.
And unemployment is already low, at 4.4 percent in June, is already low.
With unemployment dropping and businesses opening up more new positions, the rolls of unemployment beneficiaries have thinned out.
Unemployment benefits are available for up to 26 weeks in most states. The total number of people receiving benefits has run below 2 million for 16 straight weeks, a streak not seen since the end of 1973 and beginning of 1974.
Before Thursday's release, forecasters had expected the July jobs report released Friday to show that the economy added around 180,000 new jobs and that the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.3 percent.
The hot jobless claims numbers are one reason that economists expect the jobs recovery to roll on, even though unemployment is about as low as officials at the Federal Reserve think it can go. On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston president Eric Rosengren warned that, without action from the Fed, the unemployment rate could fall below 4 percent, driving inflation above the Fed's target even though it has been running low recently. "In my own view, that would not be sustainable," he told the Wall Street Journal.
Also on Wednesday, President Trump pledged that the jobs recovery would be sustained as he pursued his agenda of deregulation and renegotiating trade deals. "You're going to see jobs are pouring back into the country," he said at an event on immigration at the White House.