Economic Report: Jobless claims fall 18,000 to 214,000 around July 4 holiday, back near 49-year low

American workers are quitting and moving to other jobs at the highest rate in 17 years.

The numbers: Initial jobless claims, a tracker of sorts for layoffs in the U.S., sank in the first week of July toward the lowest levels in almost 50 years.

New claims fell by 18,000 to 214,000 in the seven days ended July 7. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 226,000 reading.

The more stable monthly average of claims, meanwhile, slipped by 1,750 to 223,000, the government said Thursday.

The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits declined by 3,000 to 1.74 million. These are known as “continuing” claims.

What happened: The number of claims last week was the third lowest of the current nine-year-old economic expansion that began in mid-2009.

The last time jobless claims were consistently lower was in 1969.

One caveat: The drop in claims last week was likely exaggerated by July 4 occurring in midweek. Fewer people may have filed applications around the holiday.

Big picture: The number of people losing their jobs and seeking benefits has totaled fewer than 250,000 each week since last September. That’s an unusually low number for an unusually long time, reflecting the healthiest U.S. jobs market at least since the dot-com boom at the end of the 1990s.

Earlier this week, the government reported the proportion of workers who quit their jobs in May rose to the highest level in 17 years. People feel more confident in quitting and finding better jobs when the economy is strong.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.88% and the S&P 500 SPX, -0.71% were to set to increase sharply on Thursday. Investors were heartened President Trump’s reaffirmation of U.S. support for NATO after a tense meeting the day before.

The stock market has been gyrating up and down in the past few months amid worries about a widening trade war. Both indexes have receded from record highs set earlier in the year.

Trade-war tracker: Here are the new levies, imposed and threatened

Also read: Here’s when Americans will start feeling the pain from escalating Trump-imposed tariffs.

The 10-year Treasury yield TMUBMUSD10Y, +0.39% rose slightly to 2.86%. After reaching 3.1% last month, the yield has also fallen in response to growing trade tensions.

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