New claims for US unemployment insurance fell back last week after having surged to a two-year high, suggesting the jobs market remains tight, official data showed Thursday.
Initial jobless claims, a sign of the level of layoffs, fell by 16,000 to 278,000 in the week ending May 14, the Labor Department said.
New claims had jumped in the prior week to 294,000, the highest level since February 2014. Analysts said the increase likely represented an unwinding of an sharp downturn in April linked to a statistical adjustment problem caused by an early Easter holiday.
But the surge sent the four-week moving average higher last week by 7,500 to 275,750, modestly above than the year-ago level of 270,500.
Claims have held below 300,000 for 63 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since 1973.
The April jobs report last week showed job growth slowed to a seven-month low of 160,000 payrolls. The unemployment rate held at 5.0 percent, near the maximum employment level, for the second month in a row.