Government officials and investors watch the jobless claims numbers closely because they offer a frequently-updated gauge of labor market health. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

First-time claims for unemployment benefits plunged to 235,000 in the second week of November, the lowest level since November of 1973, the Department of Labor reported Thursday.

Private-sector forecasters had expected a slight increase from 254,000 to around 257,000, adjusted for seasonal variations.

Thursday’s release is one more indication that President Obama will hand off a near-healthy and improving labor market to President-Elect Trump. Fewer claims indicate a low pace of layoffs, and stronger net job growth.

Specter of 'earmarks' haunts GOP

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Republicans bore the brunt of the public’s distaste for earmarks.

11/17/16 12:01 AM

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