The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by 8,000 to 276,000 in the seven days from May 24 to May 30, the government said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected initial claims to total a seasonally adjusted 278,000. The average of new claims over the past month edged up 2,750 to 274,750, the Labor Department said. 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. Yet both jobless claims numbers are near 15-year lows, reflecting the small number of layoffs taking place in the economy each week. Meanwhile, continuing claims decreased by 30,000 to 2.19 million, marking the lowest level since November 2000. These claims represent people already collecting weekly unemployment checks.
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