The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits remains near a 15-year low, rising a scant 3,000 to 265,000 in the seven days stretching from April 26 to May 2. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to rise to a seasonally adjusted 277,000 from an unrevised 262,000 in the prior week. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 4,250 to 279,500, the Labor Department said Thursday. That marks the lowest level since May 2000. 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 unemployment checks - declined by 28,000 to 2.23 million to the lowest level since November 2000.
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