The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits hit a three-month low last week, suggesting some strength in a labor market that has been hobbled by severe weather.
Other data on Thursday showed a second straight monthly decline in factory orders in January, likely because unusually cold and snowy weather disrupted activity.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits tumbled 26,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, their lowest level since the end of November, the Labor Department said.
“Initial claims returned to a more normal level, consistent with healthy labor market conditions,” said Yelena Shulyatyeva, an economist at BNP Paribas in New York.
Stocks on Wall Street were trading high on the claims data, while prices for U.S. Treasury debt fell. The dollar rose against the yen, but fell versus the euro as the European Central Bank kept interest rates on hold.
The drop in first-time claims exceeded economists’ expectations and suggested labor market fundamentals remain relatively strong, despite other data that have shown cold temperatures dampened hiring in recent months.
A closely watched government report on employment due on Friday is expected to show weather weighed on jobs growth for a third straight month in February, although not as heavily as in the prior two months.
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