WASHINGTON, (Reuters) - - The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, pointing to sustained labor market strength and firming economic growth.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 258,000 for the week ended Oct. 22, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
That marked 86 straight weeks that claims have been below the 300,000 threshold, which is normally associated with a strong job market. That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller.
Claims for the prior week were revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits falling to 255,000 in the latest week.
A Labor Department analyst said there were no special factors influencing last week's data and that no states had been estimated.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 1,000 to 253,000 last week.
The claims report also showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 15,000 to 2.04 million in the week ended Oct. 15, the lowest reading since June 2000.
The four-week average of the so-called continuing claims declined 6,250 to 2.05 million. That was the lowest level since July 2000. The continuing claims data covered the period of the household survey from which the unemployment rate is calculated.
The four-week average of continuing claims fell 64,500 between the September and October survey periods. That suggests the unemployment rate could fall this month from 5 percent in September.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)