The number of people filing new applications for U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in seven years, indicating a strengthening labor market, the government reported Thursday.
The Labor Department said jobless claims fell 24,000 to 297,000 last week. It was the lowest reading since May 2007 and brought claims back to their pre-recession level. The four-week moving average of claims—considered a better measure of labor-market trends because it smoothes weekly volatility—fell 2,000 to 323,250.
The labor market is strengthening after weakness in January and December because of an unusually severe winter. Jobless claims are a measure of layoffs, so the decline is evidence that employers are cutting fewer jobs. As claims have fallen, hiring has accelerated, with employers adding the most jobs in more than two years in April.
Also, fewer people are receiving unemployment benefits each week. The number of recipients fell to 2.67 million last week, the fewest since December 2007, when the recession began.