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Posted: Thursday, September 4th 2014 at 9:05am

Applications for jobless aid at still-low 302K; companies add jobs at solid pace

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Slightly more Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, but the total number of people receiving aid remained at its lowest level in more than seven years. Meanwhile, another report shows businesses added jobs at a healthy pace in August.

Applications for unemployment aid rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 302,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 3,000 to a still-low 299,750. A steady decline over the summer in applications means that 2.46 million people collected benefits last week, the fewest since June 2007, a few months before the Great Recession began.

Applications for benefits tend to reflect the pace of layoffs. When employers keep their workers, it suggests that they are more confident about economic growth and possibly ready to increase hiring.

The job market has improved as applications for unemployment benefits have dropped. On Friday, the Labor Department will release the August employment report, and employers are expected to have added 220,000 jobs, according to FactSet. Economists have forecast that the unemployment rate dipped to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent.

If hiring meets or exceeds those expectations, it would be the seventh straight month of job gains exceeding 200,000. The last time the U.S. economy posted a streak that long was in 2007.

COMPANIES ADD JOBS AT SOLID PACE IN AUGUST

U.S. businesses added jobs at a healthy pace in August, according to a private survey, the fifth straight month of solid gains.

Payroll processer ADP says private employers added 204,000 jobs last month, down from 212,000 in July, which was revised slightly lower. Job gains above 200,000 are usually enough to lower the unemployment rate.

The figures suggest that the government's jobs report, to be released Friday, will also show a solid increase. But the ADP numbers cover only private businesses and sometimes diverge from the government's more comprehensive report.

Economists surveyed by FactSet forecast that the government's report will show that 220,000 jobs were added in August, while the unemployment rate slipped to 6.1 percent.
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