Weekly Jobless Claims Rise as Continuing Benefits Hit 17-Year Low

New applications for U.S. jobless benefits rose slightly more than expected last week, but the number of Americans on unemployment rolls dropped to a 17-year low, pointing to a tightening labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 244,000 for the week ended April 15, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The increase followed three straight weeks of declines.

Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 111 straight weeks. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller. The labor market is close to full employment, with the unemployment rate at a near 10-year low of 4.5 percent.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits rising to 242,000 last week.

The rise in applications likely is linked to volatility around this time of the year due to

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