The number of people filing new claims for U.S. unemployment benefits fell unexpectedly last week, the government reported Wednesday, indicating steady improvement in the job market.
The Labor Department said jobless claims fell 10,000 to 316,000 last week. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better gauge of labor-market conditions, fell 7,500 to 331,750. Both figures have returned to pre-recession levels.
Jobless claims, which indicate layoffs, have fallen in six of the past seven weeks. While layoffs have slowed significantly, that has not been matched with rapid acceleration in hiring, as domestic demand remains weak.
Still, the broader trend has been encouraging. Employers have added an average of 202,000 jobs per month from August through October, up from 146,000 in May through July.
The total number of people still receiving benefits under state unemployment programs fell 91,000 last week to 2.78 million, the lowest level since January 2008.