The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, hitting its lowest level in more than 48-1/2 years, as the labor market continues to strengthen.

Other data showed manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region accelerated in July, driven by a surge in new orders received by factories. But manufacturers reported paying more for inputs.

They were less upbeat about business conditions and capital expenditures over the next six months, a sign that import tariffs were starting to hurt business sentiment.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 207,000 for the week ended July 14, the lowest reading since early December 1969, the Labor Department said.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 220,000 in the latest week.

The second straight weekly decline in claims, however, likely reflects difficulties adjusting the data for seasonal fluctuations around this time of the year when motor vehicle manufacturers shut assembly lines for annual retooling.

The claims data covered the survey week for the nonfarm payrolls component of July’s employment report. The four-week average of claims dipped 500 between the June and July survey periods, suggesting solid job growth this month.

The economy created 213,000 jobs in June, with the unemployment rate rising two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.0 percent as more Americans entered the labor force, in a sign of confidence in their job prospects.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told lawmakers this week that with appropriate monetary policy, the job market will remain strong “over the next several years.”