U.S. Jobless Claims Fell to 236,000 Last Week

By Jeffrey Sparshott and Sarah Chaney Features Dow Jones Newswires

WASHINGTON-The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits fell last week, the latest sign of steady job creation.

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Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., decreased by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 236,000 in the week ended May 6, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast 244,000 new claims.

Estimates of jobless claims can be jumpy from week to week, but generally have hovered near four-decade lows in recent months, suggesting that employers are holding on to workers.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, which evens out some volatility, rose by 500 last week to 243,500.

The number of claims drawn by workers for longer than a week--so-called continuing claims--dropped 61,000 to 1.92 million in the week ended April 29. That was the lowest level since November 1988.

The four-week moving average for continuing claims slid to its lowest level since February 1974.

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Data on continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.

The persistently low level of layoffs is one sign the labor market is tightening and may be at or near the level that economists consider maximum employment.

The Labor Department in a separate report last week said employers added 211,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate fell to 4.4%, a level last seen in May 2007.

The Labor Department's latest report on jobless claims can be accessed at: https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf

Write to Jeffrey Sparshott at jeffrey.sparshott@wsj.com and Sarah Chaney at sarah.chaney@wsj.com.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 11, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)