First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits fell to their lowest level in over 50 years in the week ended March 19th, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday.
The report showed initial jobless claims slid to 187,000, a decrease of 28,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 215,000.
Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 212,000 from the 214,000 originally reported for the previous week.
With the bigger than expected decrease, jobless claims dropped to their lowest level since hitting 182,000 in September 1969.
“The decline in claims was broad-based among states and wasn’t overly influenced by seasonal adjustment factors,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, Lead U.S. Economist at Oxford Economics.
She added, “We expect initial claims to remain low as employers struggling to hire and retain workers keep layoffs to a minimum.”
The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average also dipped 211,750, a decrease of 11,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 223,250.
Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, also fell by 67,000 to 1.350 million in the week ended March 12th, hitting the lowest level since January 1970.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims also declined to a 52-year low of 1,431,500, a decrease of 31,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 1,462,500.
“We expect continued claims to remain near these very low levels as job growth continues and more workers return to the labor market,” said Vanden Houten.
Next Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its more closely watched report on employment in the month of March.
Economists currently expect employment to jump by 450,000 jobs in March after surging by 678,000 jobs in February.