The number of Americans filing applications for new unemployment benefits plunged lower last week even as trade tensions between the U.S. and China escalated. New claims for state unemployment benefits declined by 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 212,000 for the week ended May 11, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Initial jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs. The low number of claims suggests that rising tariffs and retaliation by China have not hurt American workers. Claims were expected to decline to 219,000 from the elevated levels seen in the prior three weeks. The four-week moving average of initial claims, which smoothes out week-to-week volatility and is looked at as a more reliable measure of the labor market, rose 4,750 to 225,000 last week. Continuing claims, which are announced with a week delay, fell 28,000 to 1.66 million for the week ended May 4. The four-week moving average of ticked up 1,500 to 1.67 million.