(Bloomberg) — Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, underscoring a sturdy job market.

Jobless claims fell by 2,000 to 241,000 in the week ended March 11, a report from the Labor Department showed Thursday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for 240,000.

Employers, who are finding it difficult to lure more skilled and experienced workers at a time of steady sales growth, are reluctant to reduce headcounts. The report complements data last week showing above-average payroll growth in February and gradual wage gains.

[Image: Bloomberg]
[Image: Bloomberg]

Economists’ estimates in the Bloomberg survey for initial jobless claims ranged from 233,000 to 255,000. The figure for the previous week was unrevised at 243,000.

No states estimated jobless claims last week, and there was nothing unusual in the figures, according to the Labor Department.

The four-week moving average increased to 237,250 last week from 236,500.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits fell by 30,000 to 2.03 million in the week ended March 4, the fewest since the period ended Dec. 3. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

The latest tally marked 106 straight weeks of claims below 300,000, the level economists consider consistent with a healthy labor market. The 161-week period that ended in April 1970 was the longest such streak in records back to 1967.

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