US Joblessness Claims Officially Down

According to the Labor Department, the jobless claim is at a five-year low–down to 334,000. With the number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits down 24,000 or 5% from the previous week’s revised figure of 358,000.

Employers added an average of 202,000 jobs a month through the first six months of the year, up from an average of 180,000 in the previous six months.

In June, they added 195,000 jobs and revisions showed 70,000 more jobs were added in April and May. The unemployment rate stayed at 7.6% in June but is down from 8.2% a year ago in June.

This week Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said he expected the central bank to begin tapering its bond-buying stimulus program this year if the unemployment picture and the broader economy continue to improve as projected.

Although numbers are good, there’s also been some dramatic fluxes in the last few weeks. The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected 345,000. The recent swings reflect the difficulty in adjusting the data for the timing of annual retooling shutdowns at automakers, a spokesman said as the figures were released to the press.

More hiring could help the economy grow faster later this year by increasing the number of Americans earning paychecks. That could fuel more consumer spending and overall growth.

“We’re very focused on Main Street. We’re trying to create jobs. We’re trying to make housing affordable,” Bernanke told lawmakers Wednesday in what might have been his last testimony before a House committee.