The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits fell 34,000 to 262,000 in the seven days from April 19 to April 25, the government said Thursday. The drop is much larger than expected. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to decline to a seasonally adjusted 287,000 from a revised 296,000. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell 1,250 to 283,750, the Labor Department reported. 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.
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