Jobless claims stay near five-year low

The figure is less than half of the 670,000 hit during the peak of the recession, at the end of March 2009. 

The data provides a positive outlook for the job market ahead of the release of the government's August report, which tracks public and private hiring. 

Benefits claims fell to 322,000 in early August, which was the more than five-year low. 

August job growth estimates are varying widely but are falling into the range of 175,000 to 200,000. That would be an improvement from the lackluster 162,000 in July. The unemployment rate will probably stick right around 7.4 percent. 

Still, the numbers of those out of work are still high, and there is growing concern that the healthcare law is affecting hiring trends, especially of full-time workers. 

Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody's Analytics, said even though part-time hiring has picked up in the past four months, the trend is not enough to blame on the implementation of the healthcare law because data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is volatile. 

He said though that those jobs figures "bear close watching," but it is still "much to early to conclude" that a long-term trend is setting up. 

Overall, nearly 4.4 million received jobless benefits last week, but that is more than 1 million fewer than last year's 5.5 million.