Lower Number for Jobless Claims Filers Stateside

Figures released Thursday by the U.S. government show the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, suggesting the stateside labour market remains strong despite a sharp slowdown in job growth in March.

The U.S. Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 1,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 234,000 for the week ended April 8. That was the third straight weekly decline in claims and left them not too far from a 44-year low of 227,000 hit in February.

Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labour market, for 110 straight weeks, the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labour market was smaller. The labour market is near full employment, with the unemployment rate close to a 10-year low of 4.5%

Economists had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits rising to 245,000 last week. Claims tend to be volatile around this time of the year because of the different timings of spring and Easter holidays.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labour market trends in that it irons out week-to-week volatility, dropped 3,000 to 247,250 last week. The low level of claims suggests that a sharp slowdown in job growth in March was an aberration and that the labour market continues to tighten.