New applications for U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week, pointing to sustained labor market strength despite a sharp slowdown in job growth in March.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 233,000 for the week ended April 7, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was unrevised.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 230,000 in the latest week. Claims tend to be volatile around this time of year because of different timings of the Easter and school spring breaks, which can throw off the model that the government uses to smooth the data for seasonal fluctuations.

The economy created 103,000 jobs in March, the fewest in six months. Economists largely dismissed the slowdown as payback after hefty job gains in February. They also blamed cooler temperatures for the moderation in hiring.

Read more