The number of people who applied for U.S. jobless benefits fell 23,000 to 264,000 in the week that ended Oct. 11, hitting the lowest level since April 2000, showing that employers are laying off few workers, according to government data released Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected initial claims for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits to bump up to 289,000 in the latest weekly data from 287,000 in the prior week. The four-week average of new claims, a smoother barometer of labor-market trends, fell by 4,250 to 283,500, also reaching the lowest level since 2000, the U.S. Labor Department reported. Also Thursday, the government said continuing claims rose by 7,000 to 2.39 million in the week ended Oct. 4. Continuing claims reflect the number of people already receiving benefits and are reported with a one-week lag. The four-week average of continuing claims fell 10,750 to 2.4 million, the lowest level since June 2006.
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