The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to its lowest level in more than 44 years last week, pointing to a rebound in job growth after a hurricane-related decline in employment in September.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 222,000 for the week ended Oct. 14, the lowest level since March 1973, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week were revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.

The decrease in claims was the largest since April and was probably exaggerated by the Columbus Day holiday on Monday.

Claims are declining as the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma wash out of the data. Harvey and Irma, which lashed Texas and Florida, boosted claims to 298,000 in early September.

A Labor Department official said claims for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico continued to be impacted by Irma and Hurricane Maria, which destroyed infrastructure. As a result, the Labor Department continued to estimate claims for the islands.

Nonfarm payrolls dropped by 33,000 jobs in September as Hurricanes Irma and Harvey left more than 100,000 restaurant workers left temporarily unemployed. The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are not included in nonfarm payrolls.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 240,000 in the latest week. Last week marked the 137th consecutive week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with a strong labor market.

That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller. The labor market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at a more than 16-1/2-year low of 4.2 percent.

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