The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, suggesting the labor market remains strong despite a sharp slowdown in job growth in March.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 234,000 for the week ended April 8, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That was the third straight weekly decline in claims and left them not too far from a 44-year low of 227,000 hit in February.
Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 110 straight weeks. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller. The labor market is near full employment, with the unemployment rate close to a 10-year low of 4.5 percent.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits rising to 245,000 last week.
Claims tend to be volatile around this time of the year because of the different timings of spring and Easter holidays.