Number of people collecting unemployment checks hits 17-year low, jobless claims show

Initial jobless claims total 244,000 in mid-April

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits remains at the lowest level in decades amid a prolonged surge in job creation since 2011.
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits remains at the lowest level in decades amid a prolonged surge in job creation since 2011.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The number of out-of-work people collecting unemployment checks fell to a 17-year low in April, underscoring the strongest U.S. labor market in years.

So-called continuing jobless claims fell by 49,000 to 1.98 million, marking just the second time they’ve fallen below 2 million during the current eight-year-old economic expansion. Continuing claims also dipped below the 2 million mark in March.

The last time state unemployment offices sent out fewer checks to jobless Americans was in April 2000, the government reported Thursday.

Initial jobless claims, meanwhile, rose by 10,000 to a still-low 244,000 in the seven days stretching from April 9 to April 15. . The number of new applicants for unemployment benefits has registered less than 300,000 for 111 straight weeks, the longest streak since the early 1970s.

There is a “steady downtrend in place in the pace of layoffs,” noted Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities.

The more stable monthly average of jobless claims was a touch lower at 243,000. They fell by 4,250 from the prior week.

In recent trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.80% rose more than 180 points to 20,400. The Dow is up 3.3% so far in 2017.

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