The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to a near 45-year low last week, pointing to strong job growth in February and solid momentum in the economy.

The economy’s brightening prospects were also underscored by other data on Thursday showing a gauge of future economic activity increasing for a fourth straight month in January. Labor market strength should continue to underpin consumer spending, despite a drop in retail sales in January.

“Firms are extraordinarily unwilling to part company with workers reflecting, in all likelihood, the difficulty of replacing them,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York.

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