The U.S. economy received two bits of good news this morning.
The Labor Department announced that first-time claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 6,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 361,000 last week.
That beat the 370,000 initial claims predicted by economists, Reuters noted.
Despite last week’s dip, the four-week average increased 2,250 to 368,250. Last month, the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3%.
Separately, the Commerce Department said that the U.S. trade deficit declined 10.7% to $42.9 billion in June. That, too, was better than the $47.5 billion trade gap that economists had expected.
The lower trade deficit was driven by a sharp fall in crude oil prices. U.S. exports rose 0.9% to $185 billion, while imports slipped to $227.9 billion, down 1.5%.
U.S. exports to Europe fell 1.7% to $23.3 billion, while exports to China dropped 4.3%.
Economists cited by Reuters said that the better-than-expected unemployment claims suggested that improved hiring seen in July was continuing into August, while the smaller trade deficit showed that the U.S. economy had “stabilized” at a low rate of growth, and was not slipping into recession.