Weekly jobless claims fall to lowest level since 1969

The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits fell below 200,000 last week for the first time in nearly 50 years, according to federal data released Thursday.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 196,000 people applied for unemployment insurance in the week ending April 6, the lowest level for initial jobless claims since October 1969.

In the first week of April, 8,000 fewer Americans filed jobless claims than in the final week of March, when 204,000 unemployed members of the labor force applied for benefits. 

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April’s sharp drop in jobless claims brought the four-week average of weekly unemployment insurance applications down to 207,000, the lowest level since December 1969.

The steep decline in jobless claims is the latest positive sign for the U.S. labor market, which has continued to add jobs and draw workers off the sidelines despite slowing economic growth.

The U.S. economy added 196,000 jobs in March after adding just 33,000 in February, according to Labor Department data released last week. The economy gained an average of 180,000 jobs in the first quarter of 2019 as the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent in February and the labor force participation rate lingered near 63 percent.

Economists widely expect the U.S. economy to slow after growing by 2.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018. The Federal Reserve in March projected the economy to grow by 2.1 percent of GDP, which is in line with many private sector estimates.

The U.S. economy faces obstacles such as fading fiscal stimulus from the 2017 Republican tax-cut bill, the mounting costs of global trade tensions, potential financial market turmoil triggered by Brexit and a steep slowdown in European and Asian growth.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday projected that global growth will slow to 3.3 percent this year, the lowest level since 2009.

The threats to U.S. growth can also poses challenges to President TrumpDonald John TrumpImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Feds say marijuana ties could prevent immigrants from getting US citizenship Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report's release: poll MORE’s reelection campaign. As Democrats claim his policies have done little to support the most vulnerable Americans, the president has asked the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates and renew a Great Recession-era stimulus program.

Trump argued on Friday that the U.S. economy could have grown faster if the Fed didn’t hike interest rates in an effort to stave off inflation, which has remained below the central bank’s target range.

“I think they slowed us down. There’s no inflation. I think in terms of quantitative tightening, it should actually now be quantitative easing,” Trump said Friday.

Trump’s top economic advisers have been more optimistic, arguing that the GOP tax cuts will power the U.S. economy well into the next decade.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers  last month projected the economy to grow at 3 percent of GDP throughout Trump’s tenure, far faster than most private and public sector estimates.

Council Chairman Kevin Hassett said last week that a boost to investment in productivity-increasing equipment and a tight labor market should propel the economy throughout 2019.

“The likelihood that the policies causing the boom right now getting repealed between this year and next year is close to zero,” Hassett said at a conference hosted by the American Bankers Association.

“The level of confidence that you’re going to have a pretty solid year is pretty high.”