Weekly Jobless Claims in States Fall More than Expected

The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, pointing to underlying market strength despite a sharp slowdown in job growth in May.

Figures released Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 216,000 for the week ended June 15. Data for the prior week was unrevised.

Economists had been forecasting claims would decrease to 220,000 in the latest week. The department said no states were estimated. The drop in claims followed three straight weekly increases.

Claims are now being closely watched for signs of a rise in layoffs stemming from a recent escalation in trade tensions between the United States and China.

The trade war has increased uncertainty over the U.S. economic outlook, prompting the Federal Reserve on Wednesday to signal it could cut interest rates by as much as half a percentage point over the rest of this year. The U.S. central bank kept rates unchanged on Wednesday.