The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits dropped to its lowest level in more than 44 years last week, pointing to a rebound in job growth after a hurricane-related decline in employment in September.
The labor market outlook was also bolstered by another report on Thursday showing a measure of factory employment in the mid-Atlantic region rising to a record high in October. The signs of labor market strength could cement expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in December.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 222,000 for the week ended Oct. 14, the lowest level since March 1973, the Labor Department said. But the decrease in claims, which was the largest since April, was probably exaggerated by the Columbus Day holiday on Monday.
Claims are declining as the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma wash out of the data. The hurricanes, which lashed Texas and Florida, boosted claims to 298,000 in early September.
A Labor Department official said claims for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico continued to be impacted by Irma and Hurricane Maria, which destroyed infrastructure. As a result the Labor Department continued to estimate claims for the islands.
Nonfarm payrolls dropped by 33,000 jobs in September as Hurricanes Irma and Harvey left more than 100,000 restaurant workers temporarily unemployed. The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are not included in nonfarm payrolls.
Economists had forecast claims falling to 240,000 in the latest week. The dollar pared losses against a basket of currencies after the data, while prices for U.S. Treasuries were unchanged.