Unemployment claims fall to 48-year low

Unemployment claims fall to 48-year low
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First-time claims for unemployment benefits fell to a 48-year low last week as the labor market shows further signs of tightening after years of steady growth. 

Claims plummeted to 209,000, a decrease of 24,000 in the week through April 21, from the previous week's 232,000, the lowest level since Dec. 6, 1969, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.

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The four-week moving average, a better gauge of the labor market's health, fell by 2,250 claims to 229,250.

New York accounted for the bulk of the drop, with the number of claims in the state dropping 18,402.

A tighter labor market is starting to boost wages as employers try to hold on to their employees as the pool of skilled workers shrinks.

Jobless claims remained below 300,000 — a level that signals a healthy job market — for a record 164th straight week.

Claims procedures in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico still have not returned to normal after hurricanes battered the area last year. 

In March, the labor market added 103,000 jobs, well below expectations, but the unemployment rate held at 4.1 percent, which is the lowest in 17 years.

Economists are forecasting that the unemployment rate could fall into the mid-3 percent range this year.

The next jobs report is out May 4.