A hiring sign is seen outside of a barber shop...

A hiring sign is seen outside of a barber shop in Northbrook, Ill., Tuesday, March 12, 2024. On Thursday, March 28, 2024, the Labor Department issues the latest weekly report on first-time applications for unemployment benefits. Credit: AP/Nam Y. Huh

NEW YORK — The number of Americans signing up for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week, another sign that the labor market remains strong and most workers enjoy extraordinary job security.

Jobless claims dipped by 2,000 to 210,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week ups and downs, fell by 750 to 211,000.

Overall, 1.8 million Americans were collecting unemployment benefits the week that ended March 16, up 24,000 from the week before.

Applications for unemployment benefits are viewed as a proxy for layoffs and a sign of where the job market is headed. Despite job cuts at Stellantis Electronic Arts, Unilever and elsewhere, overall layoffs remain below pre-pandemic levels. The unemployment rate, 3.9% in February, has come in under 4% for 25 straight months, longest such streak since the 1960s.

Economists expect some tightening in the jobs market this year given the surprising growth of the U.S. economy last year and in 2024.

The U.S. economy grew at a solid 3.4% annual pace from October through December, the government said Thursday in an upgrade from its previous estimate. The government had previously estimated that the economy expanded at a 3.2% rate last quarter.

The Commerce Department’s revised measure of the nation’s gross domestic product — the total output of goods and services — confirmed that the economy decelerated from its sizzling 4.9% rate of expansion in the July-September quarter.

“We may see initial claims drift a bit higher as the economy slows this year, but we don’t expect a major spike because, while we expect the pace of job growth to slow, we do not anticipate large-scale layoffs,” wrote Nancy Vanden Houten, the lead U.S. Economist at Oxford Economics.

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