Initial jobless claims dropped 3.1% to 346,000 for the week ending June 1, according to a Labor Department report released today.

After increasing a revised 3.8% the previous week, analysts had expected a milder improvement to 345,000. Initial claims hit an unrevised record low for the recovery in the week ending May 4.

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Source: Author, data from Labor Department. 

Although this week's report of an 11,000-initial-claim decrease shows signs of a labor market improvement, the four-week moving average bumped up 1.3% to 352,500 for the fourth consecutive increase. But despite the longer-term rise in initial claims, both the latest week's claims and the four-week average clock in solidly below 400,000, a cutoff point that economists consider a sign of an improving labor market.

On a state-by-state basis, Michigan and North Carolina recorded decreases of more than 1,000 initial claims for the week ending May 25 (most recent available data). Michigan provided no comment for its 2,185 drop in initial claims, while North Carolina cited fewer construction layoffs as the primary driver behind its 1,750 improvement. For the same week, six states registered increases of more than 1,000 initial claims. Service layoffs helped push California's claims up 8,620, while accommodations and food services layoffs were the main culprit behind Missouri's 3,000-claim increase.

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