The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, pointing to sustained labor market strength even as the pace of job growth is slowing.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 259,000 for the week ended Sept. 3, the lowest level since mid-July, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were unrevised.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits rising to 265,000 in the latest week.
It was the 79th straight week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with robust labor market conditions. That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller.
A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing last week's claims data. However, claims for Virginia, New Mexico, Alabama and Minnesota, as well as those for Hawaii and Puerto Rico were estimated because Monday's Labor Day holiday had caused delays in the processing of the data.
The estimates are based on historical trends and normally do not deviate much from the actual data, the analyst said.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 1,750 to 261,250 last week.