New claims for US jobless benefits held steady at the start of May, continuing a record streak of low levels, the country’s Labour Department has reported.

Meanwhile, the total population of people claiming unemployment insurance hit a record low not seen in almost 30 years.

The results pointed to a persistently tight labour market, with employers fearful of laying off workers they may not be able to replace.

For the week ending 6 May, new claims for unemployment benefits slipped to 236,000, seasonally adjusted, down 2,000 from the previous week.

That was 6,000 fewer than analysts had been expecting.

The less volatile four-week average was essentially unchanged, up just 500 to 243,500.

New claims for jobless benefits have now held below 300,000 for more than two years, the longest such stretch since 1970.

The overall number of people claiming benefits fell 61,000, the largest drop since July 2015.

At 1,918,000 the total was the lowest since November 1988.

Though the measure may see big swings from week to week, jobless claims can help gauge the prevalence of layoffs and the health of labour markets.

The Federal Reserve has twice raised interest rates since December, responding in part to steady job creation and low unemployment, which is now at its lowest level in a decade at 4.4%.