New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits plunged to the lowest level in nearly 15 years last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
Initial jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, dropped to a seasonally adjusted 265,000 in the week ending January 24, a hefty decline of 43,000 from the prior week`s slightly upwardly revised level of 308,000.
It was the lowest level for initial claims since mid-April 2000. The decline in claims was much steeper than expected, with analysts projecting a reading of 301,000.
The Labor Department said there was no particular factor influencing the current week`s claims data.
The four-week moving average, which helps to smooth week-over-week volatility in the data, fell by 8,250 to 298,500 last week. A year ago the average was 335,250.
The US unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent in December, its lowest level since June 2008, as the economy wrapped up its best annual job growth in 15 years, adding nearly three million jobs.
The Labor Department is due to release its January jobs report on February 6.