Photo: Molten steel is poured into a large mold at a castings facility in Salem, Ohio. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg Molten steel is poured into a large mold at a castings facility in Salem, Ohio. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg

Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, sliding to the lowest level since September and underscoring a strong jobs market where many businesses are reluctant to let go of workers.

Initial unemployment claims decreased by 15,000, to 190,000, in the week ended January 14, Labor Department data showed Thursday. The median forecast was for 214,000 applications, but the data can be particularly volatile and difficult to seasonally adjust in the winter months and around holidays.

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