Jobless claims fell to a new multi-decade low last week.
The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropped 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 196,000 in the week ended April 6, the lowest level in over 49 years, according to data released by the Labor Department Thursday.
Jobless claims were expected to go the other way, rising from 204,000 to 211,000.
At 196,000, jobless claims are at the lowest level since early October in 1969. Both the overall American economy and the labor market were much smaller in 1969. The American population is now 61 percent larger than the last time just 196,000 applied for initial unemployment benefit claims.
Claims data can be volatile from week to week, so many economists look to the four-week moving average of claims. This dropped to 207,000, also the lowest level since 1969.
Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs. They have been watched closely for signs that trade disputes were hitting U.S. workers. Many critics of President Donald Trump’s tariffs predicted they would lead to layoffs in the U.S. They have not.
The very tight labor market appeared to be softening at the end of 2018 and start of 2017, with claims rising as high as 244,000 in February. They have since retreated back down to lows not seen in decades.