Forecasters had expected jobless claims to drift down to 263,000. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

New applications for unemployment benefits fell by 11,000 to 254,000 in the first week of November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday in good news for the U.S. jobs outlook.

Thursday’s beat the expectations of private-sector forecasters, who had expected jobless claims to drift down to 263,000.

The total number of people receiving unemployment benefits, just over 2 million, is running at the lowest level since the dotcom bubble year of 2000, when the U.S. population and workforce was significantly smaller.

Claims, which the Bureau adjusts for seasonal variations, are released weekly and provide a frequent metric of the health of the labor market. Fewer claims means fewer layoffs and greater net job creation.

Economists calculate that any number of claims below 300,000 translates to continued job growth. New claims haven’t hit that mark in 88 weeks, a streak unseen since 1970.

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