New claims for unemployment benefits plunged last week to the lowest level in nearly 27 years, highlighting the difficulty employers are having in trying to find people to hire in a booming economy. The Labor Department said the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell an unexpected 9,000 to 257,000 for the week ended April 15. Many analysts had predicted a slight rise. The decline left claims at their lowest level since Dec. 1, 1973, when there were 256,000. The more stable four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, fell to 262,500. That's the lowest level since Dec. 15, 1973, when such claims stood at 256,750. The four-week moving average has been running below 300,000 since late October. Economists consider claims below 300,000 an indication of a tight labor market, meaning employers are have trouble finding qualified workers to fill job openings.