New applications for U.S. jobless benefits fell more than expected last week and the number of Americans on unemployment rolls hit a 17-year low, pointing to a tightening labor market that could encourage the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates next month.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 238,000 for the week ended April 29, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The decline unwound most of the prior two weeks’ increases in applications.
Economists say claims were distorted in recent weeks by the Easter holidays and spring breaks, which occur at different dates every year, making it difficult to strip the seasonal fluctuations from the data.
Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 113 straight weeks. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller. The labor market is close to