(Bloomberg) -- Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits dropped last week to match the lowest level since April, a sign the labor market remains healthy even as hiring moderates.
Jobless claims declined by 8,000 to 252,000 in the week ended Sept. 17, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. It was the largest drop since early July. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey called for 261,000. Last week also coincided with the period that the government surveys businesses and households to calculate payrolls and the jobless rate for September.
Applications for unemployment insurance are close to a four-decade low as companies focus more on filling available positions than on trimming staff. Federal Reserve officials projected the labor market would “strengthen somewhat further” in announcing a decision Wednesday to hold off on raising interest rates while signaling an increase is still likely by year-end.
“It’s a pretty solid sign,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, an interest-rate strategist at TD Securities LLC in New York. “It reinforces what the Fed has been saying and reinforces their bias toward hiking rates in the near future.”
Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 255,000 to 270,000. The prior week’s reading was unrevised at 260,000.
Filings have been below 300,000 for 81 straight weeks -- the longest streak since 1970 and a level economists say is typical for a healthy labor market.
Claims in one state, South Carolina, were estimated last week and there was nothing unusual in the broader set of data, according to the Labor Department.
The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, dropped to 258,500 from 260,750 in the prior week.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits declined by 36,000 to 2.11 million in the week ended Sept. 10, the lowest level since May. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits fell to 1.5 percent from 1.6 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.