By Vicki Needham - 05/15/14 10:01 AM EDT
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.
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.