The U.S. Labor Department said initial jobless claims, a closely-watched gauge of layoffs, dropped to 601,000 for the week ended May 2nd. This was down 34,000 from the previous week's revised total of 635,000.

The 4-week moving average for initial claims, a statistic that flattens out week-to-week fluctuations in the data, fell to 623,500 from the previous week's revised level of 638,250.

The number of people receiving ongoing unemployment help, a statistic known as continuing claims, climbed to another record, though the weekly increase was the smallest since February. Continuing claims rose 56,000 to 6.351 million for the week ended April 25, the most recent week for which the government has data.

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