The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, pointing to a tightening labor market that likely keeps the Federal Reserve on course to announce plans next month to start reducing its massive bond portfolio.

 

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 240,000 for the week ended July 29, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

 

Data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 242,000.

Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 126 straight weeks. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller. The labor market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at 4.4 percent.