Ahead of next week's more closely watched monthly jobs report, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday unexpectedly showing a modest decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended March 23rd.
The report said initial jobless claims dipped to 211,000, a decrease of 5,000 from the previous week's revised level of 216,000.
The drop came as a surprise to economists, who had expected jobless claims to rise to 225,000 from the 221,000 originally reported for the previous week.
The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average also slipped to 217,250, a decrease of 3,250 from the previous week's revised average of 220,500.
Meanwhile, the report said continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, rose by 13,000 to 1.756 million in the week ended March 16th.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims still dropped to 1,751,250, a decrease of 4,250 from the previous week's revised average of 1,755,500.
Next Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its more closely watched report on the employment situation in the month of March.