First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by more than expected in the week ended April 20th, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday.
The report showed that initial jobless claims fell to 339,000, a decrease of 16,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 355,000.
Economists had expected jobless claims to show a more modest decrease, dipping to 350,000 from the 352,000 originally reported for the previous week.
With the bigger than expected decrease, jobless claims fell to their lowest level since hitting 334,000 in the week ended March 9th.
Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital, said, "The better news on the [unemployment insurance] front points to a moderate bounce in April non-farm payrolls."
The Labor Department also said that the less volatile four-week moving average dipped to 357,500, a decrease of 4,500 from the previous week's revised average of 362,000.
Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment benefits, also dropped to 3 million in the week ended April 13th from the preceding week's revised level of 3.093 million.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims also fell to 3,071,750, a decrease of 17,500 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,089,250.
Next Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its closely watched monthly employment report for April.
"Our econometric model suggests that, although the labor market has weakened since earlier in the year, conditions are not quite as bad as March's Employment Report suggested," Capital Economics said in a research note.
Earlier this month, the Labor Department released a report showing that employment edged up by 88,000 jobs in March following an increase of 268,000 jobs in February.
Economists had expected an increase of about 193,000 jobs compared to the addition of 236,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.
Despite the lackluster job growth during the month, the unemployment rate unexpectedly dipped to 7.6 percent, hitting its lowest level since December of 2008.
by RTT Staff Writer
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