The number of people filing new applications for U.S. unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, the government reported Thursday, indicating the labor market was strengthening despite increases in jobless claims in the previous three weeks.
The Labor Department said jobless claims fell 26,000 to 319,000 last week. Economists expected a smaller decline to 325,000.
The four-week moving average of jobless claims—considered a better measure of underlying trends because it smoothes weekly volatility—rose 4,500 last week to 324,750. Despite the increase, the average remains at levels consistent with an improving labor market.
The number of people still receiving unemployment benefits fell 76,000 last week to 2.69 million, the report said.
The labor market is solidifying, with employment growth averaging more than 200,000 jobs per month in the first four months of this year. In April, employers added 288,000 jobs, the most since early 2012.