New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a 3-1/2 year low last week, a government report showed on Thursday, suggesting the labor market
recovery was gaining speed.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000, the Labor Department said. That was the lowest level since May 2008.
The prior week's claims data was revised up to 385,000 from the previously reported 381,000.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 390,000 last week.
The unexpected drop in claims last week pushed them closer to the 350,000 mark that analysts say signals labor market strength.