Thirty-six states and territories reported a decline in claims, while 17 reported an increase. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

Sealy Corp., a Trinity, North Carolina-based bedding manufacturer, is among companies seeing a slowdown in demand, in part reflecting limited job growth.

'Softening' In Economy

"Our retailers have seen a little bit of softening in the economy," Lawrence Rogers, chief executive officer, said in a conference call with investors on June 28. "The market is just absorbing some of the high fuel costs and the inflation in food, and just the general unemployment numbers."

Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth -- measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report -- accelerates.

Payrolls grew by 54,000 in May, the least in eight months. The lack of a pickup in the labor market and an economy that's slowing reinforce the decision of Fed policy makers to keep interest rates close to zero for an extended period.

"Recent labor market indicators have been weaker than anticipated," central bankers said in a statement on June 22 after a two-day meeting. "The slower pace of the recovery reflects in part factors that are likely to be temporary," such as supply chain disruptions stemming from the Japanese disaster in March.


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