U.S. Jobless Claims Fell for Third Straight Week

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

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., fell 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 232,000 in the week ended May 13, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast 240,000 new claims.

Estimates of jobless claims can be volatile 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 weekly volatility, decreased last week to 240,750.

The number of claims drawn by workers for longer than a week--so-called continuing claims--declined 22,000 to 1,898,000 in the week ended May 6. The level marks the lowest since November 1988. 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 said in its latest jobs report that employers added 211,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate dropped 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 Sarah Chaney at sarah.chaney@wsj.com and Jeffrey Sparshott at jeffrey.sparshott@wsj.com.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 18, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)