New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits rose modestly last week but the overall trend fell to a 15-year low, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
Initial jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, rose by 3,000 to 265,000 in the week ending May 2, the department said.
The four-week moving average, which helps to smooth volatility in the weekly numbers, fell by 4,250 to 279,500, the lowest level since early May 2000. A year ago the average stood at 324,750.
The claims data came a day ahead of the government's April jobs report. The Labor Department is expected to report Friday that the economy added 218,000 jobs last month, rebounding from a tepid 126,000 in March, with the unemployment rate dipping a tenth point to 5.4 percent.
"Claims continue to show no sign of an uptrend, consistent with a still-strong trend in employment growth," said Jim O'Sullivan, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics, in a client note.
"The pattern does not assure a 200K-plus rise in payrolls tomorrow, but it suggests the trend is still at least that strong. We are still forecasting a 260K rise."