Jobless claims fall to seven-year low


The fewest number of workers in seven years filed for unemployment benefits last week, another good sign for the labor market amid a recent mixed bag of economic data. 

First-time jobless claims fell 24,000 to 297,000, the lowest level since May 2007, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The four-week moving average, which is a better indicator of the labor market's health, dropped 2,000 to 323,250, as businesses laid off fewer workers and the economy shifted into expansion mode after a slowdown during the winter months. 

In April, employers added 288,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent, although partly because of a drop in labor force participation. 

With the labor market finally gaining some steam, economists expect growth to improve — to probably a 3.5 percent pace — after an anemic first quarter.

Economic growth was a paltry 0.1 percent in the first three months of the year and may have actually contracted in the first quarter as severe weather weighed on consumer spending.