New claims for US unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, partly erasing the increases of the prior three weeks, Labor Department data released Thursday showed.
Initial jobless claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs, dropped 11 percent to a seasonally adjusted 346,000 in the week ending April 6, according to the data.
The decline was the strongest in more than four months and sharper than analysts expected, with the average estimate at 365,000.
It ended three weeks of increases after jobless claims had hit a five-year low of 334,000 on March 9.
Analysts pointed out the data may be skewed because of the difficulty of seasonal adjustments for the Easter holiday, which falls on a different date each year.
Easter this year was on March 31, and included in last week's data.
The four-week moving average of jobless claims rose by 3,000 to 358,000.
According to the official labor market numbers released last Friday, job growth plunged in March, to 88,000 jobs, the slowest pace in nine months.
The unemployment rate dipped a tenth point to 7.6 percent due to people dropping out of the workforce.