Fewer people filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, continuing a recent trend of moderation that has marked the past several weeks.

While the number of people on the government's unemployment roll continues to set new record highs, the slowdown in layoffs is raising hope of stabilization in the labor market.

The U.S. Labor Department revealed that initial jobless claims came in at 631,000 for the week ended April 25th, down 14,000 from last week's revised total of 645,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to come in unchanged compared to the 640,000 originally reported for the previous week.

This reversed some of the increase that took place in the previous week, but the number of claims remained above the nearly 3-month low reached in mid-April.

Still, the latest data pointed to a continued trend of moderation, with claims edging further off the recent high of 674,000 that was reached in late March.

The 4-week moving average for initial claims, which flattens out the week-to-week fluctuations in the data, continued its recent downward trend, slipping to 637,500.

This marked the 4th consecutive week that the 4-week moving average edged lower. The figure is now at its lowest level since late February.

However, the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment help, a figure known as continuing claims, rose to yet another record, climbing to 6.271 million after a revised reading of 6.138 million in the previous week.

This was the 15th week in a row that continuing claims have moved higher. The persistent increase in this statistic suggests that people are having trouble finding jobs after they are laid off.

Next week, the government will release its next monthly employment report. Another dismal month of job losses is expected. For March, the government reported 663,000 lost jobs for the month and revealed that the unemployment rate rose to 8.5%.

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