The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose less than expected last week and the four-week moving average of claims fell to a 44-year low, suggesting further tightening in the labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 234,000 for the week ended May 20, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The increase followed three straight weeks of declines.
Data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits rising to 238,000 in the latest week.
It was the 116th straight week that claims were below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market.
That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller. The labor market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at a 10-year low of 4.4