The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure than the weekly figures, dropped to 339,500 last week from 340,000.
Today’s report corresponds to the week the Labor Department surveys businesses to calculate the May payroll data. The four- week average for this month’s survey period was down from 362,000 in the comparable week in April, when the data turned volatile because of the Easter holiday.
Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth, which is measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report, accelerates.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits decreased by 112,000 to 2.91 million in the week ended May 11, the fewest since March 2008, according to today’s the report. The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.
Those who’ve used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments dropped by about 15,500 to 1.78 million in the week ended May 4.
The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 2.3% in the week ended May 11, today’s report showed.
Thirty-one states and territories reported a decrease in claims, while 22 reported an increase. These data are reported with a one-week lag.
A two percentage-point rise in the payroll tax at the start of 2013 and $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that began on March 1 are threatening growth. The economy may cool to a 1.6% pace this quarter, after growing at a 2.5% rate in the first three months of 2013, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg economist survey from May 3 to May 8.
Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest maker of construction and mining equipment, has made job cuts. The company saw global total machine retail sales fall 9% in the three months through April from a year ago, smaller than the 11% drop in the quarter through March, the Peoria, Illinois- based company said May 20 in a filing.