The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, a sign the U.S. labor market might be tightening.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 287,000 in the week ended Sept. 27, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Claims for the prior week were revised to show 2,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 297,000 last week.
Claims have fallen steadily since the nation emerged from the 2007-09 recession and are currently lower than they were before the country's economic crisis began.
The report is the latest good jobs news this week in anticipation of September's monthly jobs report, to be released tomorrow.
Payroll processer ADP says private employers added 213,000 jobs last month, up slightly from 202,000 in August. Job gains above 200,000 are usually enough to lower the unemployment rate.
The figures suggest the government's jobs report on Friday could show a rebound in hiring. The government said employers added only 142,000 jobs in August. But the ADP numbers cover only private businesses and sometimes diverge from the government's more comprehensive report. ADP's August figure was much higher than the government's.
Economists surveyed by FactSet forecast that the government's report will show 215,000 jobs were added in September, while the unemployment rate remained 6.1 percent.
The ADP figures are a precursor to the official government data, which comes out on the first Friday of every month. But the surveys are conducted differently, and therefore can yield very different results. Still, economists were hopeful that the solid ADP report could portend good things."While the frequent revisions to the ADP employment report limit its usefulness for forecasting purposes, the strong September report is broadly consistent with our forecast for an increase of 250,000 jobs in Friday’s nonfarm payroll report," Barclays Research economist Jesse Hurwitz wrote in an e-mailed release.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 4,250 to 294,750.
The Labor Department said there were no special factors influencing the state level data.
The data has no bearing on Friday's government report on monthly employment during September because the hiring survey was conducted earlier in the month. Economists expect companies stepped up the pace of hiring last month, adding 215,000 workers to payrolls.
The jobless claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid dropped 45,000 to 2.40 million in the week ended Sept. 20.