Other data yesterday showed the deficit on the trade balance in June was the smallest in one and a half years as the petroleum import bill dropped sharply.
While the small trade gap implied upward revisions to the government’s estimate of second-quarter gross domestic product published last month, the impact was blunted somewhat by an unexpected drop in wholesale stocks in June.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 361,000, the Bureau of Labour Statistics said. Economists had expected claims to rise to 370,000 last week.
The data came on the heels of a report last week showing that in July employers hired the most workers in five months.
“The fact that initial jobless claims have fallen back to their March lows suggests faster employment gains will continue to support consumer spending in the coming months,” said Harm Bandholz, chief US economist at UniCredit Research in New York.
Nonfarm payrolls increased 163,000 in July after three months of gains below 100,000. But the unemployment rate rose by a tenth of a percentage point to 8.3 per cent.