Initial jobless claims fell 5.3% to a seasonally adjusted 324,000 for the week ending April 27, according to a Labor Department report released today.

This marks the second week in a row of falling claims, a trend analysts had not expected. After falling 2.8% to an unrevised 339,000 the previous week, the consensus estimate had predicted a bump up to 345,000 new claims in the most recent week.

Source: Author, data from Labor Department. 

The four-week moving average also fell, down 4.5% to 342,250. Both the most recent week's number and the moving 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, 12 states recorded decreases of more than 1,000 in their initial jobless claims for the week ending April 20 (most recent available data). Fewer service industry layoffs in California resulted in 16,680 fewer initial filings, while New York's number dropped 6,440 as a result of fewer layoffs in its transportation, food services, and health care industries.

For the same week, four states recorded initial claims increases of more than 1,000. Michigan provided no explanatory comment for its 6,170 jump, but Massachusetts (+4,100), Connecticut (+2,450), and Rhode Island (+1,430) all pointed to educational service layoffs as the main reason for their claims increases.