The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to near a 43 year-low last week, pointing to further tightening in the labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 28,000 to a seasonally adjusted 235,000 for the week ended Dec. 31, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That was close to the 233,000 touched in mid-November, which was the lowest level since November 1973.
Claims for the prior week were revised to show 2,000 fewer applications received than previously reported. But with claims data for six states and one territory estimated because of the New Year's holiday, last week's drop likely exaggerates the labor market's strength.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 5,750 to 256,750 last week.
Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 96 consecutive weeks. That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller.
The labor market is considered to be at or near full employment, with the jobless rate at a nine-year low of 4.6 percent. Tightening labor market conditions and gradually firming inflation allowed the Federal Reserve to raise its benchmark overnight interest rate last month by 25 basis points to a range of 0.50 percent to 0.75 percent.