The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, pointing to a tightening labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000 for the week ended June 13, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Claims for the prior week were unrevised. It was the 15th straight week that claims held below 300,000, a threshold usually associated with a firming labor market.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday gave an upbeat assessment of the labor market. The U.S. central bank's policy-setting committee said in its statement that on balance, a range of job market indicators "suggests that underutilization of labor resources diminished somewhat."
That was an upgrade from April when measures of labor market slack were viewed as "little changed."
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 275,000 last week. A Labor Department analyst said there was nothing unusual in the state level data.
"The lower-than-expected print for initial claims, particularly relative to the May survey week, suggests labor markets have continued to strengthen through mid June, in our view," Barclays Research economist Jesse Hurwitz wrote in an e-mailed analysis. "We look to next week’s report for a reading on survey week continuing claims, which should provide additional clarity on the strength of June labor market conditions."
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 2,000 to 276,750 last week.
The claims data covered the period during which the government surveyed employers for the payrolls portion of June's employment report. Jobless claims fell 8,000 between the May and June survey periods, suggesting another month of solid job gains.
Nonfarm payrolls increased 280,000 in May after a rise of 221,000 in April.
Thursday's claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid declined 50,000 to 2.22 million in the week ended June 6.