[WASHINGTON] The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell slightly more than expected last week, pointing to labour market resilience despite moderate economic growth.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 276,000 for the week ended May 30, the Labour Department said on Thursday.
Claims for the prior week were revised to show 2,000 more applications received than previously reported.
It was the 13th straight week that claims held below the 300,000 threshold, which is usually associated with a strengthening labour market.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling last week to 279,000. Last week's claims data included the Memorial Day holiday, but a Labour Department analyst said that had not had an impact on the data.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labour market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, increased 2,750 to 274,750 last week.
The tightening jobs market underscores the economy's solid fundamentals even though growth is struggling to regain steam after output contracted in the first quarter.
The economy got off to slow start in the second quarter in part because a strong dollar and spending cuts in the energy sector constrained manufacturing activity.
There are, however, signs of some pick-up, with data this week showing a surge in automobile sales in May and gains in factory activity last month for the first time since November. In addition, the trade deficit narrowed sharply in April and construction spending hit its highest level since November 2008.
Last week's claims report has no bearing on May's employment report, which is due for release on Friday, as it falls outside the survey period.
Still, the claims data suggest another month of solid job growth. According to a Reuters survey of economists, nonfarm payrolls likely increased 225,000 last month after rising 223,000 in April.
Thursday's claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 30,000 to 2.20 million in the week ended May 23. That was the lowest since November 2000.