Fewer Americans than forecast filed first-time applications for unemployment benefits last week, Bloomberg reported, showing that companies are holding back from firing workers even as growth slows this quarter.

 

Initial jobless claims dropped by 12,000 to 334,000 in the week ended June 8, from 346,000 the prior period, according to numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted 346,000 claims.

 

Fewer dismissals may indicate that companies have cut staff about as much as they can, which puts employers in a position to add staff should sales improve later in the year. The four-week moving average, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figures, declined to 345,250 last week from 352,500.

 

Nearly 12 million people remain unemployed, but only 2.97 million filed for their second or subsequent week of unemployment benefits the week ending June 1, CNN Money reported.

 

In a separate report, retail sales rose more than expected in May, Reuters reported. Sales were up 0.6 percent in May, higher than a 0.1 percent increase in April, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

 

Taken together, the data indicate a pickup in economic momentum after a slow start to the second quarter.