"In the weeks that follow," said Michelle Girard, chief economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, "claims look likely to hold at or below the 300,000 mark."
The sharp decline has paralleled healthy monthly employment reports. Employers added a net 288,000 jobs in June, capping the first five-month stretch of gains above 200,000 since 1999 at the height of the dot-com boom.
The consensus forecast of economists is that the government will announce next week that employers added 225,000 jobs in July, according to a survey by the data firm FactSet.
Not every company is avoiding layoffs. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that it would cut 18,000 workers — the biggest layoffs in its 39-year history. But layoff announcements now mainly reflect strategic changes within individual companies, rather than broader economic conditions, Naroff said.
Other data confirm that across the economy, job cuts have reached unusually low levels. Total layoffs in May dropped below pre-recession levels, the government said in a separate report that reveals how many people were hired, fired or quit jobs.
Just 1.58 million people were laid off in May, according to the Labor Department. That was the third-lowest monthly figure since the government began tracking the data in 2001.
Still, while layoffs have fallen 7.5 percent this year, actual hiring has increased just 3 percent. That's a big reason the job market might not seem as healthy as the series of strong monthly net job gains might suggest.
Even so, more people with jobs means more people with paychecks, which tends to boost consumer spending and growth. After a sharp contraction in the economy in the first three months of the year, most economists expect growth to exceed a 3 percent annual pace in the second half of 2014.