The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits climbed by 14,000 to 281,000 in the seven days from March 29 to April 4, but the low level of initial claims shows that few workers are getting laid off even as job creation appears to have slowed. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected initial claims to increase to a seasonally adjusted 285,000 from a revised 267,000 in the prior week. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, dropped by 3,000 to 282,250 and touched the lowest level since June 2000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average smooths out sharp fluctuations in the more volatile weekly report and is seen as a more accurate predictor of labor-market trends. Also, the government said continuing claims decreased by 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 2.3 million in the week ended March 28. That's also the smallest amount in 15 years. Continuing claims reflect the number of people already receiving weekly unemployment checks. Initial claims from two weeks ago were revised down by 1,000 to 267,000, matching the fewest claims since the end of the Great Recession. The last time initial claims were that low was in April 2000.
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