New applications for U.S. jobless benefits rose slightly more than expected last week, but a drop in the number of Americans on unemployment rolls to a 17-year low suggested the labor market continues to tighten.
Other data on Thursday showed factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region slowed in April amid a pullback in new orders and shipments. But factories hired more workers and increased working hours, underscoring the labor market's strength.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 244,000 for the week ended April 15, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The increase followed three straight weeks of declines.
Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 111 straight weeks. That is the longest such stretch since
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits rising to 242,000 last week.
The rise in applications likely is linked to volatility around this time of the year due to the different timings of spring and Easter holidays, which often throws off the model the government uses to smooth the data of seasonal fluctuations.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 4,250 to 243,000 last week.
U.S. financial markets were little moved by the data.
In a separate report, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve said its index