By Lucia Mutikani
WASHINGTON -- The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to the lowest level in almost seven years, which could bolster views of an acceleration in job growth after a cold winter dampened hiring.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 300,000 for the week ended April 5, the lowest level since May 2007, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Claims for the week ended March 29 were revised to show 6,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits falling to 320,000 in the week ended April 5.
The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of underlying labor market conditions as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell to 316,250 in the week ended April 5, down 4,750 from the previous week.
A Labor Department analyst said no states were estimated and there were no special factors influencing the state level data.
Layoffs are trending lower and hiring is regaining some momentum after being held back by unusually cold weather, snow and ice storms in December and January.
Job growth averaged about 195,000 per month in February and March, with the unemployment rate holding at near a five-year low of 6.7 percent over that period.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 62,000 to 2.78 million in the week ended March 29. That was the lowest level since January 2008.