The numbers: The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits in Mid-May fell slightly and returned close to a half-century low, signaling that a muscular U.S. jobs market is still going strong.
Initial jobless claims, a rough way to measure layoffs, dipped by 1,000 to 211,000 in the seven days ended May 18, the government said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch estimated new claims would total a seasonally adjusted 217,000.
The more stable monthly average of new claims fell by 4,750 to 220,250.
The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, rose slightly to 1.68 million. One year ago, these claims were about 100,000 higher.
What happened: Jobless claims have settled back near a 50-year low after a spike last month tied to seasonal changes in employment around the Easter holiday and spring break for schools.
Big picture: By most measures the U.S. labor market is the strongest in decades. Indeed, the Federal Reserve used the word “strong” a dozen times to describe the labor market in the minutes of its last meeting in early May.
Wages are rising, job openings are at a record high and layoffs and unemployment are at a 50-year low. The sizzling labor market is keeping the U.S. economy on stable growth path despite increasing headwinds such as a trade tensions with China
Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.39% and S&P 500 SPX, -0.28% were set to open sharply lower in Thursday trades on worries that the U.S.-China impasse could drag on for months.
Read: Monster clash over trade dwarfs all other issues about the U.S. economy
The 10-year Treasury yield TMUBMUSD10Y, -0.93% slipped to 2.36%. The yield has sunk from a seven-year high of 3.23% last October, largely because the Fed junked plans to keep raising interest rates. Trade worries have also pushed yields lower.