First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits dropped by much more than expected in the week ended September 7th, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday. The report said initial jobless claims fell to 204,000, a decrease of 15,000 from the previous week's revised level of 219,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 215,000 from the 217,000 originally reported for the previous week. With the much bigger than expected decrease, jobless claims fell to their lowest level since hitting a nearly 50-year low of 193,000 in April. The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average also dipped to 212,500, a decrease of 4,250 from the previous week's revised average of 216,750. Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, also edged down by 4,000 to 1.670 million in the week ended August 31st. The four-week moving average of continuing claims also slid to 1,680,250, a decrease of 14,500 from the previous week's revised average of 1,694,750. Last Friday, the Labor Department released a separate report showing weaker than expected job growth in the month of August. The report said non-farm payroll employment rose by 130,000 jobs in August after climbing by a downwardly revised 159,000 jobs in July. Economists had expected employment to increase by about 158,000 jobs compared to the addition of 164,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month. The weaker than expected job growth came as notable increases in employment in healthcare and financial activities were partly offset by the loss of mining and retail jobs. The report said government employment climbed by 34,000 jobs, largely reflecting the hiring of temporary workers for the 2020 Census. Meanwhile, the Labor Department said the unemployment rate held at 3.7 percent in August, unchanged from July and in line with economist estimates. Compared to the same month a year ago, averagely hourly earnings were up by 3.2 percent in August versus the 3.3 percent increase in July.