First-time jobless claims fell 26,000 last week


First-time claims for jobless benefits fell more than expected last week as the labor market continues to show signs of gaining momentum.

Applications for unemployment benefits dropped 26,000, to 319,000, last week as employers reduced layoffs, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Forecasts were for a fall to 325,000.

The data have been on a roller coaster ride in the past month, with big fluctuations caused by the difficulty of adjusting the figures for Easter and spring breaks.

The four-week moving average, a less volatile gauge that better reflects the direction of the labor market, rose to 324,750 from 320,250 the prior week.

Businesses added 288,000 in April, the biggest increase in payrolls since January 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said last week.

Economists expect the economy to pick up pace in the warmer months after a cold winter tamped down economic growth in the first three months of the year.

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said during congressional testimony that the economy should improve, although she expressed concerns about the condition of the housing market’s recovery.

She said growth should pick up pace after an anemic first-quarter of 0.1 percent.

“I see that pause as mostly reflecting transitory factors, including the effects of the unusually cold and snowy winter weather,” Yellen said.  

“With the harsh winter behind us, many recent indicators suggest that a rebound in spending and production is already under way, putting the overall economy on track for solid growth in the current quarter.”

In April, The jobless rate fell to 6.3 percent from 6.7, the lowest level since 2008, although much of the decrease was caused by a fall in the labor participation rate, which tied a record low set in March 1978.