The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits dropped by 13,000 last week, the Labor Department reported on Thursday, but so-called continued claims hit a new record as the recession took a further toll on job prospects.
Initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits declined to a seasonally adjusted 623,000 in the week ended May 23 from a revised 636,000 in the prior week. It was the second straight week in which initial claims fell.
Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 630,000 new claims for benefits last week compared with a previously reported 631,000 in the preceding week.
Some 5.7 million U.S. jobs have been scrubbed from payrolls since a severe recession began in late 2007, battering labor markets as companies cut current employees and hold off on hiring.
The number of people staying on benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of aid increased by 110,000 to a higher-than-forecast 6.79 million in the week ended May 16, the most recent period for which the data was available. Analysts had estimated continued claims would be 6.74 million.
Continued claims have set new records in every week since January 24 and now are more than double the level they were at a year ago.
(Reporting by Glenn Somerville, Editing by Andrea Ricci)