The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, offering fresh evidence that the labor market was gathering steam.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 283,000 for the week ended Feb. 14, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
The prior week’s data was unrevised. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 293,000 last week.
A Labor Department analyst said the department had estimated the claims data for Tennessee, where offices were closed on Tuesday because of bad weather.
A shortened work week due to Monday’s Presidents Day holiday could also have contributed to the unexpectedly bigger decline in claims. Still, the underlying trend continues to point to a strengthening labor market.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 6,500 to 283,250 last week.
Prices for longer-dated U.S. Treasuries declined further after the data, while stock index futures were mixed. The dollar held onto modest gains.
The data covered the week that the government surveyed employers for February’s nonfarm payrolls.
The four-week moving average of claims fell 23,750 between the January and February survey period, suggesting another month of job gains above 200,000.
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