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WASHINGTON: New claims for US jobless benefits drifted lower in the second week of May, the Labor Department reported Thursday, continuing a record low streak and reflecting tightness in the job market.

The total number of people seeking unemployment insurance also to fell to its lowest level in almost 30 years, in line with the record low unemployment rate.

For the week ending May 13, new claims for unemployment benefits slipped to 232,000, down 4,000 from the prior week, marking the third consecutive decrease and the lowest level since February.

Analysts had been expecting an increase of 4,000 new claims.

The less volatile four-week moving average edged down to 240,750, also the lowest level since February.

The total number claiming benefits fell by 22,000 to 1,898,000, also a third straight drop its lowest point since November 1988. The measure has not been lower since December 1973.

New claims for unemployment benefits have remained below 300,000 for more than two years, a streak not matched since 1973. The latest week's data covers the period used for the monthly employment survey for May, which will be released June 2.

Though jobless benefits can see big swings from week to week, they can be used to gauge the prevalence of layoffs and the health of labor markets.

With steady job creation over the last 11 months and unemployment at a 10-year low of 4.4 percent, the US labor market has shown signs of consistent tightening.

Analysts say employers are forgoing layoffs for fear of not being able to replace the workers they let go, and anecdotal reports across the country show companies are finding it difficult to fill open positions, including for low-skill jobs.

To get out ahead of possible inflation, the Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rates twice since December and forecasts another two increases this year.


Copyright AFP (Agence France-Press), 2017




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