The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropped from near a 1-1/2-year high last week, pointing to continued labor market strength.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits tumbled 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 234,000 for the week ended February 2, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Claims jumped to 253,000 in the prior week, which was the highest reading since September 2017, amid layoffs in the service industry in California.
Economists blamed that surge on a strike by teachers in California, a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government as well as difficulties adjusting the data around moving holidays like Martin Luther King Jr. day, which occurred later this year than in the past.
The government shutdown ended on Jan. 25 after President Donald Trump and Congress agreed to temporary government funding, without money for his U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 221,000 in the latest week. The Labor Department said no states were estimated last week.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 4,500 to 224,750 last week.