The number of Americans who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time fell more than expected last week, easing fears of a slowdown in the US labour market.
Initial jobless claims dropped 16,000 to 339,000 in the week ended April 20, from an upwardly revised 355,000 the previous week, data from the labour department showed on Thursday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected a level of 350,000.
The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out the weekly volatility, fell to 357,500 from 362,000.
The positive report runs counter to several data releases that have signalled a softening of economic activity in March and early April.
The initial jobless claims reflect the pace of hiring and firing and tend to fall as jobs growth – measured by the non-farm payrolls report – accelerates.
The labour department is due to release the April employment report next Friday. Economists forecast payrolls to rise by 155,000 following a disappointing 88,000 uptick in March – the fewest in nine months. Unemployment fell to 7.6 per cent, the lowest in four years. Claims around this time of the year are difficult to adjust for seasonal swings
The number of people continuing to collect jobless benefits fell 93,000 to 3m in the week ended April 13, the lowest since May 2008. Those who have used up their existing benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments rose by about 7,600 to 1.79m in the week ended April 6.