WASHINGTON — Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment benefits fell by far more than expected in the April 27 week to its lowest level in just over five years, declining by 18,000 to 324,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Expectations for this week's report were for a claims level of 345,000, an increase of 6,000 from the previously reported 339,000 level in April 20 week. The initial claims level in that week was revised up to 342,000.

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