Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell to the lowest level since April, signaling resilience in the labour market ahead of Friday’s jobs report.

Jobless claims fell by 10,000 to 203,000 in the week ended Nov. 30, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday that were below all estimates in Bloomberg's survey of economists. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, decreased to 217,750.

Key Insights

• The decline in claims to near a half-century low underscores the tightness in the labor market despite manufacturing weakness, soft global growth and slower business investment. That suggests consumer spending should continue to hold up and support the broader expansion.

• The latest data come with important caveats, though. Last week included Thanksgiving, and the claims figures tend to be more volatile around the year-end holidays. In addition, the seasonal adjustment for Thanksgiving may have been even trickier than usual because the holiday came so late in the month, compared with about a week earlier in 2018.

• The sign of strength precedes the Labor Department’s November jobs report, which is projected to show that hiring is holding up at a more moderate pace than last year while the jobless rate remained close to a half-century low. At the same time, a private report this week showed companies added 67,000 jobs in November, the fewest in six months.

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• Continuing claims, reported with a one-week lag, rose 51,000 to 1.693 million in the week ended Nov. 23.

• The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits rose to 1.2 per cent from 1.1 per cent.

• Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast that claims would edge up to 215,000.