Jobless benefit claims stateside fall for 2nd straight week

Those Americans filing for unemployment benefits decreased in number for a second straight week last week, suggesting no impact yet on the labor market from ongoing trade tensions between the United States and its trading partners.

The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday morning that initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 212,000 for the week ended Aug. 11. Data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.

The claims data is being closely watched for signs of layoffs as a result of the Trump administration's protectionist trade policy, which has led to an escalating trade war with China and tit-for-tat import tariffs with other trading partners, including the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

While there have been reports of some companies either laying off workers or planning to as a result of the import duties, that is not yet evident in the claims data.

Economists say a robust economy is helping the labour market weather the trade storm. Companies are also reporting difficulties finding qualified workers, with the labour market viewed as being near or at full employment.

The economy grew at a 4.1% annualized rate in the second quarter, the fastest in nearly four years and almost double the 2.2% pace logged in the first three months of the year.