The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week and continued to hover at a low level consistent with a healthy U.S. labor market.
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Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S. economy, declined by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 241,000 in the week ended March 11, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The decrease matched economists' expectations, and claims for the week ended March 4 were left unrevised at 243,000.
Jobless claims have remained below 300,000 for 106 consecutive weeks, the longest such streak since 1970--when the U.S. workforce and population were far smaller than they are today. Claims in the week ended Feb. 25 were 223,000, the lowest weekly level since March 1973.
Data on unemployment applications can be volatile from week to week. A more stable measure, the four-week moving average of initial claims, rose by 750 last week to 237,250.
The Labor Department on Thursday also said continuing unemployment claims, reflecting benefits drawn by workers for longer than a week, fell by 30,000 to 2.03 million in the week ended March 4. Data on continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.
The U.S. job market has started 2017 on solid footing. Nonfarm payrolls rose by a healthy 235,000 in February from the prior month, the Labor Department reported last week, and the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7%. Average private-sector hourly earnings rose 2.8% last month from a year earlier, the latest sign that a tightening job market is prompting employers to raise pay.
"Looking ahead, we expect that job conditions will strengthen somewhat further," Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen told reporters on Wednesday.