The number of people filing for unemployment benefits is at a 16-year low

The number of people who last week filed for unemployment benefits for at least the second time was the lowest since June 2000.

Continued claims, also called insured unemployment, fell by 14,000 to 2.026 million, the Department of Labour said Thursday.

Initial jobless claims, which counts people applying for unemployment insurance for the first time, rose by 7,000 to 265,000 last week.

Economists had forecast that the tally fell to 256,000 from 258,000 in the prior week.

Initial jobless claims are used as a real-time proxy for the pace of layoffs and the overall health of the labour market, since people usually file for benefits soon after they lose their jobs. The current level is near the lowest since the 1970s.

Continued claims are also a good reflection of how the labour market is doing. While a drop in initial claims is a leading sign of labour-market trouble, continuing claims usually lag, and coincide with economic cycles at the tops and bottoms.

A catch, however, is that the number of people eligible for unemployment benefits is at a historic low.

Both indicators point to a stable labour market.

Earlier Thursday, staffing firm Challenger, Grey & Christmas said employers announced 30,740 job cuts in October, the lowest level in five months. Bespoke Investment Group noted that planned job cuts fell year-on-year for a sixth straight month, the longest streak of declines since January 2011.

On Friday, the Labour Department will publish the October jobs report, forecast to show that the US economy added 175,000 nonfarm payrolls.

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