Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 18,000 to 357,000 in the May 31 week, while continuing claims also dropped, down 16,000 to 3,093,000 in the May 24 week, its sixth week above the three million mark, the Labor Department reportedyesteday.

A Labor Department analyst again cited “no special factors” for the May 31 week but said he was surprised at how low the number came in, even with fewer claims because of Memorial Day, a shortfall that was larger than the seasonal factor expected.

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