By Agence France-Presse
New claims for jobless benefits sank at the end of April, and the total number of people receiving unemployment benefits hit a 17-year low, the US Labor Department reported Thursday.
The figures were more evidence of the persistently tight job market and came a day before the department is due to release its monthly employment report.
In the week ending April 29, initial claims for unemployment insurance fell 19,000 to 238,000. Analysts had been expecting a drop of only 11,000.
The less volatile four-week moving average held steady at 243,000, down 750 from the prior week’s figure.
Meanwhile the total number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell 23,000 to 1,964,000, the lowest since April 2000.
Though they see big swings from week to week, jobless claims data can be used to measure the prevalence of layoffs and the health of labor markets.
Job creation has been steady for many months, dropping the unemployment rate to 4.5 percent, and companies are reporting difficulty finding workers to fill open positions and in some cases have had to offer higher pay and benefits, even for low-skilled work.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday left its benchmark interest rates unchanged but signaled it may persist with an expected course of rate increases during the year, in large part due to strong job creation and low unemployment.