Initial jobless claims fell last week and the total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits hit a new seven-year low, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The number of people filing for the first time for jobless benefits dropped in the week ended Saturday to 312,000, from the previous week’s revised 318,000.
The new figure was in line with economists’ forecasts and was near the post-Great Recession low of 298,000 reached in early May.
The less-volatile four-week average fell by 3,750 to 311,750, also near the post-recession low hit in late May.
As the initial claims have dropped in recent months, the overall number of people receiving unemployment benefits also has fallen.
The most recent data available, for the week ended June 7, showed the figure down to 2.56 million recipients, the fewest on the unemployment rolls since October 2007.
The decline is consistent with a slowly improving labor market.
The economy added 217,000 net new jobs in April and the unemployment rate was 6.3 percent, matching its lowest level since late 2008.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday announced it would continue to reduce its monthly bond-buying program as the economic recovery strengthens. Fed Chair Janet L. Yellen said the labor market continues to heal, but still is a long way from healthy.