The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, suggesting that a strong economy was helping the labor market weather ongoing trade tensions between the United States and a host of other countries.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 213,000 for the week ended Aug. 4, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.
The claims data is being closely watched for signs of layoffs as a result of the Trump administration’s protectionist trade policy, which has left the United States embroiled in tit-for-tat tariffs with major trade partners including China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union.
Washington imposed duties on steel and aluminum imports, provoking retaliation by the nation’s trade partners. The United States has also slapped tariffs on Chinese goods, with Beijing responding in kind. Manufacturers are increasingly complaining about more expensive steel and aluminum raising production costs, as well as causing disruptions to the supply chain.
There have been reports of some companies either laying off workers or planning to as a result of the import tariffs.