WASHINGTON — Initial claims U.S. state unemployment benefits fell by 1,000 to 222,000 in the June 2 week, the lowest level in a month, very slightly ahead of the 221,000 level expected by analysts in an MNI survey, data released by the Labor Department Thursday showed.

The four-week moving average for initial claims, which tends to be a better measure of the underlying trend of the data, rose by 2,750 to 225,500 in the June 2 week, but remains fairly low even with the late-April dips out of the equation.

If the number of headline claims does not change next week and there are no revisions to data from the past four weeks, the four-week average would be little changed as the 223,000 level in the May 12 week rolls out of the calculation, keeping the average below its year ago level.

Seasonal adjustment factors had expected a decrease of 5.4%, or 10,910, in unadjusted claims in the holiday-shortened week. Instead, unadjusted claims fell by 11,669 (5.8%) to 191,177. The current week's level was well below the 212,696 level in the comparable week a year ago.

Claims were only estimated in Maine after a number of states were estimated in the previous week. There are still issues with data collection in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The level of continuing claims rose by 21,000 to 1.741 million in the May 26 week. Before seasonal adjustment, continuing claims fell by 5,215 to 1.569 million, well below the 1.751 million level seen in the comparable week last year.

The four-week average for continuing claims, a more reliable measure when the continuing claims are rapidly moving week-to-week, fell by 13,250 to 1.729 million, hitting another low point since 1973. However, the average could possibly rebound next week when a 1.712 million level in the May 5 week rolls out of the calculation.

The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate stayed at 1.2% in the May 26 week, down from 1.4% in the same week a year earlier and an indication of how low the level of insured unemployment stands.

The unemployment rate among the insured labor force is well below that reported monthly by the Labor Department because claims are approved for the most part only for job losers, not the job leavers and labor force reentrants included in the monthly report.

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