The numbers: Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits fell in late July after hitting a two-month high in the prior week, suggesting the delta strain of the coronavirus hasn’t done much so far to harm the economy.

Initial jobless claims declined by 24,000 to 400,000 in the week ended July 24, the government said Thursday. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast 380,000 new claims.

Requests for benefits had surged a revised 56,000 in mid-July in somewhat of a surprise, but the increase largely appears to have stemmed from seasonal swings in employment in the auto industry. Automakers often shut downs plants briefly in July to retool to build new models.

Auto workers in some states such as Michigan are eligible for benefits during these shutdowns.

Economists are watching to see if rising coronavirus cases tied to the contagious delta strain causes companies to lay off workers again or discourage people from looking for work, especially at restaurants and other businesses that cater to the public

The number of people already collecting state jobless benefits, meanwhile, rose by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.27 million. The four-week moving average for this data – known as continued claims — fell 53,750 to 3.29 million, the lowest level since the pandemic.

Read: The cost of living posts biggest increase since 2008 as inflation spreads

Altogether, some 13.2 million people were reportedly receiving benefits through eight separate state or federal programs as of July 10.

Note to readers: A government review found the number of distinct individuals collecting benefits has been inflated by fraud and double counting.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-0.36%

and S&P 500
SPX,
-0.02%

were set to open higher in Thursday trades. The government reported that U.S. GDP climbed at a 6.5% rate in the second quarter.

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