Weekly Jobless Claims in U.S. Lows Not Seen Since 1969

Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell in numbers last week, hitting the lowest level in more than 48 years, pointing to a rapidly tightening labour market.

Figures released Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department revealed initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 210,000 for the week ended Feb. 24, the lowest level since December 1969. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 2,000 fewer applications received than previously reported.

Economists had forecast claims rising to 226,000 in the latest week. It was the 156th straight week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with a strong labour market, and the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labour market was much smaller south of the border.

Federal Reserve officials consider the labour market to be near or a little beyond full employment. The jobless rate at a 17-year low of 4.1%.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, viewed as a better measure of labour market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 5,000 to 220,500 last week, also the lowest level since December 1969.