WASHINGTON - The number of people signing up for unemployment benefits in the United States fell to a 42-year low last week.
Thursday's report from the Labor Department says new jobless claims dropped 6,000 to a nation-wide total of 247,000.
Economists use jobless claims to track the number of layoffs across the country, and say any number below 300,000 is consistent with a healthy job market. Jobless claims have now been below this threshold for 59 weeks, the longest such streak since 1973.
Some analysts interpret the newest data as evidence that employers are shrugging off weak economic growth early this year and hanging on to workers or hiring more.
The U.S. unemployment rate, which comes from other data and research, peaked at 10 percent in 2009, but has been falling steadily to the current 5 percent rate.