US weekly jobless claims have come in at a total of 238,000, a figure that was expected to total 247,000, marking the number of Americans on unemployment at a 17-year low.
Just a week earlier, first-time claims for state unemployment benefits were 257,000. The new numbers illustrate a 19,000 drop for the week ended April 29, according to the Labor Department.
Economists say unemployment claim numbers have been distorted in recent weeks due to spring break dates and Easter, which occur at different times each year; but now, seasonal fluctuations are less likely to affect the data.
With the new numbers in, claims have consistently been below 300,000 – a threshold used to determine a healthy labor market – for 113 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since 1970. In addition, the labor market is near full employment, and the unemployment rate is close to a 10-year low of 4.5 percent.
Thursday’s claims reports also show that first-time applicants for unemployment benefits were lower in April than March, which only showed a 98,000 gain in jobs numbers. According to a Reuters survey of economists, this number rose to 185,000 in April.
In addition, the number of people still receiving benefits after one week of unemployment aid fell 23,000 to 1.96 million in the week ending April 22, the lowest level since April 2000. This “continuous claims” level has fallen 17,750 to 1.99 million over a four-week moving average, which is the lowest level since Nov. 1988
Overnight on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged but said the tightening labor market could “strengthen somewhat further,” encouraging it to raise interest rates in June.
U.S. central bank officials also expect economic activity to expand at a “moderate” pace.
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