Initial claims came in at 304,000, slightly less than expected (315,000) and low enough to keep the low flame of optimism burning after last weeks good jobs number.

As Shobhana Chandra of Reuters reports:

Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign the job market continues to strengthen. Jobless claims declined by 11,000 to 304,000 in the week ended July 5, the fewest in more than a month, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 45 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 315,000. There was nothing unusual in the data and no states were estimated, a spokesman said as the figures were released. Combined with data last week that showed payrolls exceeded expectations in June and thevunemployment rate fell to an almost six-year low, the drop in firings signals a rebound in second-half economic growth. As demand improves, employers will probably take on more workers, helping to lift consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy.

It is still a long slog to full employment or even full “labor force participation.” But the absence of bad news is … well, good news.

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