The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits fell to more than 49-1 / 2 years last week, pointing to a sustained strength in the economy.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell from 5,000 to 192,000 adjusted seasonally for the week ending April 13, the lowest level since September 1969, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data from the previous week was revised to show 1,000 more received requests than previously reported.
The claims have decreased for five consecutive weeks. Economists polled by Reuters had predicted that claims would rise to 205,000 in the last week.
The Labor Department said no states were estimated last week. Claims tend to be volatile at this time of year due to the different times of the Easter holidays and spring break.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, since it reduces weekly volatility, fell 6,000 to 201,250 last week, the lowest reading since November 1969.
Claims data covered the week of the survey for the non-farm payroll part of the April employment report. The average four-week claims decreased by 19,250 between the weeks of the March and April survey. This suggests solid employment growth after payrolls increased by 196,000 jobs in March.
Although the trend in hiring has slowed down, earnings in employment remain above the approximately 100,000 needed per month to keep up with the growth of the working-age population. The unemployment rate is 3.8 percent, close to the 3.7 percent projected by Federal Reserve officials by the end of the year.
A Fed report on Wednesday showed "moderate to moderate growth" in employment in most districts of the US central bank in April. The Federal Reserve's "Beige Book" report of anecdotal information on business activity gathered from contacts across the country showed a notable shortage of workers "most commonly in manufacturing and construction."
The claims report on Thursday showed that the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid was reduced from 63,000 to 1.65 million for the week ending in April.