The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to a seasonally adjusted 346,000, signaling that the job market might be stronger than March's weak month of hiring suggested.
Applications for unemployment aid dropped 42,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. The decline nearly reversed an increase over the previous three weeks. The four-week average, a steadier measure, rose 3,000 to 358,000.
The number of unemployment applications has been volatile in the past two weeks largely because of the Easter holiday, a department spokesman said. The timing of the holiday changes from year to year. That makes it hard to adjust for school holidays and other changes that can cause temporary layoffs.