U.S. Jobless Claims Plumb Lows Not Seen Since 1969

Figures released Thursday showed the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropped to a 49-1/2-year low last week, pointing to sustained labour market strength that could temper expectations of a sharp slowdown in economic growth.

The U.S. Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 8,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 196,000 for the week ended April 6, the lowest level since early October 1969. Claims have now declined for four straight weeks. Data for the prior week was revised to show 2,000 more applications received than previously reported.

Economists had expected claims would rise to 211,000 in the latest week.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labour market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 7,000 to 207,000 last week, the lowest level since early December 1969.

The economy appears to have lost momentum in the first quarter as the stimulus from a $1.5-trillion tax cut package fades and a trade war between China and the United States and softening global demand hurt exports.