WASHINGTON, March 22 (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, but the increase was marginal, suggesting strong job growth in March that should underpin consumer spending.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 229,000 for the week ended March 17, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims dropped to 210,000 during the week ended Feb. 24, which was the lowest level since December 1969.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dipping to 225,000 in the latest week. Claims have now been below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with a strong labor market, for 159 straight weeks. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani)