The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless aid fell last week to its lowest level in nearly 5-1/2 years, signalling labour market resilience in the face of fiscal austerity.
The job market buoyancy, flagged last week by a relatively strong April employment report, eased fears of an abrupt economic slowdown.
"We are not getting a slowing in the second quarter. The claims data provide another set of confirmation that the labour market is healing," said Michael Strauss, chief economist at Commonfund in Wilton, Connecticut.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, the lowest level since January 2008, the Labour Department said.