The less volatile four-week running average fell to 332,000, down from the previous week's revised average of 336,000, the lowest level since November 2007.
Although initial weekly claims of 375,000 have in the past been viewed as predictive of robust new job creation, that hasn't been the case in the current economic situation.
During the past 40 years, the best 12-month period for initial claims was August 1999-July 2000 when the weekly average was 285,000. For the comparable 12-month period ending July 2013, the weekly average was 360,000.
In both federal and state compensation programs, the total number of people claiming benefits for the week ending July 27 was 4,586,860. That was up 65,906 from the previous week. Of the total, 1,552,910 Americans claimed compensation under the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation put into place by Congress to ease the impact of the recession. For the comparable week of 2012, there were 5,704,310 people claiming compensation in all programs, with 2,373,969 of them making claims under the EUC.
Total claims are down over last year for three reasons: People previously receiving them have found jobs; they have exhausted their benefits; or, they have left the labor force. Exhausting benefits is happening sooner for jobless Americans now because Congress cut back the maximum duration an eligible worker can receive EUC compensation from 73 weeks to 41, and a few states have cut back their allowable maximum duration from the half-century-old nationwide standard of 26 weeks to 20 weeks or less. Several states have also lowered the maximum weekly benefit workers can receive and the federal budget sequester has reduced EUC compensaton checks by 11 percent or more, depending on the state.