The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in 44 years last week, more evidence of a healthy labor market.
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Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., fell by 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 223,000 in the week ended Feb. 25, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 245,000 new claims last week. Claims for the week ended Feb. 18 were revised down to 242,000 from 244,000.
Data on unemployment applications can be volatile from week to week. A more stable measure, the four-week moving average, dropped by 6,250 last week to 234,250. That was the lowest level since April 1973.
Jobless claims have remained below 300,000 for 104 consecutive weeks, the longest such streak since 1970--when the U.S. workforce and population were much smaller than they are today.
Continuing unemployment claims, reflecting benefits drawn by workers for longer than a week, increased by 3,000 to 2.07 million in the week ended Feb 18. Data on continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.
The U.S. job market started 2017 on solid footing.
Nonfarm payrolls rose by a stronger-than-expected 227,000 in January from the prior month, the Labor Department reported last month, and the unemployment rate was 4.8%.
The Labor Department's latest report on jobless claims can be accessed at: https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf
By Jeffrey Sparshott