Initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped 26,000 to a seasonally adjusted 350,000.
The drop, which brought new claims to their lowest level since March 2008, was much steeper than Wall Street economists expected. The previous week's figure was revised slightly higher to 376,000 from the previously reported 374,000.
Before seasonal adjustments, unemployment claims typically rise sharply in the first week of July because automotive companies and some other U.S. manufacturers close plants to retool. Workers in many states can file for temporary unemployment benefits when those shutdowns occur.
Yet for the second year in a row, fewer companies shuttered plants, so fewer workers filed applications for benefits.
However, the number of people filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits in Wisconsin last week spiked nearly 47 percent from the prior week, according to the latest estimate by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
Initial claims for unemployment insurance grew to 14,558 in the state last week, up from 9,926 in the previous week and 13,547 in the same week a year ago.
Last week's total for claims was the highest in Wisconsin since 15,045 filed for claims in the week of Jan. 28.
A spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development said claims increased significantly, particularly in the manufacturing and administrative services employment sectors, which may have to do with the July 4th holiday mid-week.
“The increase is similar, but substantially lower than increases in comparable weeks in the years 2006 and 2007 when the July 4th holiday occurred mid week,” he said.
In 2006, when the 4th was on a Tuesday, claims were 18,763, a 108 percent increase from the prior week. In 2007, when the 4th was on a Wednesday, claims were 20,465, a 138 percent increase week over week.