WASHINGTON—The number of Americans claiming new unemployment benefits has never been so low for so long.
Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., decreased by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 233,000 in the week ended April 7, the Labor Department said Thursday. This means claims have now held below 300,000 for 162 consecutive weeks, cementing the longest streak for weekly records dating back to 1967.
The current streak eclipsed the previous longest stretch that ended in April 1970.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected 230,000 new claims last week.
The consistently low claims levels point to labor market health because they mean relatively few Americans are losing their jobs and applying for benefits to tide them over until they can find new employment.
After several years of consistent job growth, firms are reluctant to let employees go in a tightening labor market in which many available workers are quickly snapped up.
Data on jobless claims can be volatile from week to week. The four-week moving average of initial claims, a more-stable measure, increased last week to 230,000.
The low level of claims is among multiple signs of health in the U.S. labor market. The unemployment rate has held at 4.1% since October, its lowest level since late 2000. Employers have added to nonfarm payrolls for 90 straight months in the longest continuous jobs expansion on record.
Thursday’s report showed the number of claims workers made for longer than a week increased by 53,000 to 1,871,000 in the week ended March 31. That figure, known as continuing claims, is reported with a one-week lag.