(Bloomberg) -- The fewest Americans in almost five months filed for unemployment benefits last week, signaling the broad labor market remains healthy despite cooling in some parts of the economy.

Jobless claims dropped by 15,000 to 204,000 in the week ended Sept. 7, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday that were below all estimates in Bloomberg's survey of economists. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, decreased to 212,500, the lowest since late July.

Key Insights

  • The biggest one-week decline in claims since May suggests employers are holding onto workers even in the face of waning business investment and heightened trade-policy uncertainty. While last week's employment report showed monthly job gains have slowed, they're still more than enough to accommodate growth in the labor force.
  • One caveat: Last week included Labor Day, and the figures tend to be more volatile around holidays and other events like the start of the school year.
  • The data precede a Federal Reserve meeting next week where policy makers are expected to make their second straight quarter-point interest-rate cut amid a persistent trade war with China, sustained global weakness and relatively muted inflation.

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  • A separate Labor Department report Thursday showed inflation, excluding food and energy, accelerated in August by more than forecast.
  • Continuing claims, reported with a one-week lag, fell 4,000 to 1.67 million in the week ended Aug. 31.
  • The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held steady at 1.2%.
  • Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast that claims would dip to 215,000. The prior week's figure was revised to 219,000 from 217,000.

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