The drop erases much of the gains of the past three weeks when claims rose by 49,000. The department revised last week's initial claims figure from 385,000 to 388,000.
The four-week rolling average for the week increased by 3,000 to 358,00.
The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending March 30 were in Pennsylvania, where claims rose by 3,015 and New Jersey with an increase of 2,409.
The largest decreases were in Texas, where initial claims fell by 3,489 and California with 2,661 fewer first-time claims.
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