Weekly jobless claims

The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropped to a more than 49-year low last week, pointing to sustained labor market strength despite slowing economic growth.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 202,000 for the week ended March 30, the lowest level since early December 1969, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 216,000 in the latest week. The Labor Department said only claims for California were estimated.

Claims have shown no sign of a pickup in layoffs even as the economy has lost momentum as the stimulus from a $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades. Companies are experiencing a shortage of workers, which contributed to a recent slowdown in hiring.

Job growth has slowed from last year’s roughly 225,000 monthly average pace. The pace of increase, however, remains more than sufficient to keep up with growth in the working age population, holding down the unemployment rate.

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