WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, pointing to a still-tight jobs market even as hiring and economic growth has slowed.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 212,000 for the week ended Oct. 19, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was upwardly revised to 218,000.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims edging higher to 215,000 in the latest week. The Labor Department said no states had claims estimated last week.
The overall decrease was despite an ongoing strike by about 48,000 workers at General Motors. While striking workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits, the work stoppage has affected production, impacting non-striking employees at suppliers.
The United Auto Workers union reached a tentative agreement with the Detroit automaker last week on a new four-year-contract but will remain on strike until members complete a vote on the proposal by Friday.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better gauge of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, declined 750 to 215,000 last week.
The claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 1,000 to 1.682 million for the week ended Oct. 12. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims increased 6,500 to 1.677 million.
Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Andrea Ricci