Total continuing claims for unemployment benefits ran at the lowest level in 28 years at the beginning of May, the Department of Labor reported Thursday morning in a new sign that the jobs market is still improving.

The total number of unemployed workers receiving benefits fell to 1.9 million, the agency said, the lowest such mark since November of 1988, when the workforce was much smaller.

Over the past month, the average number of continuing claims per week has clocked in at 1.95 million, the lowest number in 43 years.

Those numbers were released as part of the department's weekly jobless claims report, which is valued by investors and government officials because it provides a frequently-updated indication of new claims for unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs. Fewer layoffs means more job creation.

Thursday's report showed just 232,000 new claims, adjusted for seasonal variations, for the week ending on May 13. That was the lowest number in nearly three months, and an extremely low mark by historical standards.

The encouraging news from jobless claims is just one of the bright signs related to jobs.

At 4.4 percent in April, the unemployment rate is already below where Federal Reserve officials thought it could sustainably go if the economy were fully healthy.

Jobless claims below 300,000, economists calculate, go along with steady or declining unemployment, meaning that the unemployment rate could fall further still.