There were 324,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week, down 18,000 from the previous week's 342,000, the Employment and Training Administration reports.
Claims continue to run around the lowest pace since early 2008 — they haven't been lower since a week in mid-January 2008 when they came in at 321,000.
Bloomberg News writes that the drop indicates "companies are retaining staff even as the economy cools."
We'll learn much more about the labor market Friday, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics is due to release data on the April unemployment rate and job growth. Bloomberg says that economists expect to hear that a modest 145,000 jobs were added to payrolls and that the jobless rate held steady at 7.6 percent.
Update at 9:30 a.m. ET. Layoffs Down Too:
Also this morning, the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported that in April, "job cuts fell to their lowest level since December, as U.S. employers announced plans to trim payrolls by 38,121. ... April job cuts were 23 percent lower than March, when announced layoffs totaled 49,255. They were 6.0 percent lower than the 40,559 planned job cuts announced in April 2012. April represents the lowest job-cut month since last December, when 32,556 were tracked by Challenger."