New claims for US unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, suggesting a slowdown in the pace of layoffs, official data showed Thursday ahead of the highly anticipated June labor data.
The Labor Department reported 374,000 jobless claims were filed in the week ending June 30, down by 14,000 from the prior week's upwardly revised 387,250 claims.
The decline in jobless claims was significantly sharper than the 385,000 reading expected by analysts.
In another sign of improvement in the troubled jobs market, the four-week moving average of claims dropped by 1,500 to 835,750, the government reported.
Separately, payroll company ADP said the US private sector added 176,000 jobs in June, 29 percent more than in May and well above the consensus expectation of 105,000.
The upbeat data came ahead of Friday's June labor data. Analysts estimate the unemployment rate will hold steady at 8.2 percent and 100,000 jobs were added, compared with a meager 69,000 in May.