The newest Labor Department report shows unemployment benefits dropped for the fourth straight week, a sign that companies are hiring though not as heavy as industry watchers had predicted earlier this week.
The Labor department said initial claims dropped last week by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 444,000. That's a bit above analysts' estimates, according to a Thomson Reuters report.
The previous week's total was revised up to 448,000.
The four-week average, which was 450,500, indicates a steeper decline. First-time claims have fluctuated at around 450,000 since January.
The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.6 percent for the week ending May 1, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate of 3.6 percent.
The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 407,267 in the week ending May 8, an increase of 11,132 from the previous week. There were 570,412 initial claims in the comparable week in 2009.
Initial claims for UI benefits by former Federal civilian employees totaled 1,300 in the week ending May 1, an increase of 86 from the prior week. There were 2,289 initial claims by newly discharged veterans, a decrease of 97 from the preceding week.
There were 18,944 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending April 24, a decrease of 267 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 36,699, a decrease of 500 from the prior week.
The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending April 24 were in Alaska (6.6 percent), Puerto Rico (6.3), Oregon (5.8), Nevada (5.1), California (4.9), Pennsylvania (4.8), Wisconsin (4.8), Montana (4.7), North Carolina (4.6), Rhode Island (4.6), Connecticut (4.5), and Idaho (4.5).
The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending May 1 were in New York (+4,021), Kentucky (+1,015), Pennsylvania (+773), Illinois (+611), and Tennessee (+609), while the largest decreases were in California (-18,546), Massachusetts (-3,628), Indiana (-3,242), Michigan (-1,748), and Florida.