The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits in early May edged down by 1,000 to 264,000, showing the pace of layoffs remains at a 15-year low even though hiring as slow a bit since the end of 2014. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to rise to a seasonally adjusted 275,000 in the week stretching from May 3 to May 9 from an unrevised 265,000 in the prior week. New claims have registered less than 270,000 for three straight weeks, only the second time that's happened since 1975. The last time claims were as low was in the spring of 2000 at the tail end of the Internet boom. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 7,750 to 271,750, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's also a 15-year low. 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. Continuing jobless claims - people already collecting benefits - were unchanged at 2.23 million in the week ended May 2.
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