Washington — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell for a second straight week, further evidence of the strength of the labor market.

The numbers: The Labor Department said Thursday that claims for jobless benefits last week dropped by 8,000, to a seasonally adjusted 237,000. The less-volatile four-week average rose by 1,000 to 243,000.

The takeaway: Applications for unemployment benefits are a proxy for layoffs. They’ve come in below 300,000, a historically low figure, for 119 straight weeks, the longest such stretch since 1970. Overall, 1.94 million people were collecting unemployment checks, down 10.2 percent from a year ago.

Key drivers: Various indicators show the job market is healthy even though hiring has slowed lately, partly because employers are having trouble finding workers. The jobless rate fell in May to a 16-year low of 4.3 percent.

The economy has generated 162,000 jobs a month so far this year — up from an average of 157,000 a month from January through May last year but down from an average of 187,000 a month for all of 2016.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve, noting the strong job market, voted to boost a key interest rate for the third time in six months, pushing its federal funds rate up by a quarter-point to a new range of 1 percent to 1.25 percent. The Fed signaled that it intended to raise rates one more time this year.

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