First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits showed an unexpected decrease in the week ended February 25th, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday, with claims at their lowest level in almost four years.
The report showed that initial jobless claims edged down to 351,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 353,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to creep up to 355,000 from the 351,000 originally reported for the previous week.
With the drop compared to the previous week's revised figure, jobless claims matched the number seen in the week ended February 11th and are at their lowest level since coming at 347,000 in the week ended March 8, 2008.
Peter Boockvar, managing director at Miller Tabak, said, "The labor market continues to improve, with the pace of firings still moderating, and we'll see next week to what extent hirings picked up in February."
The report also showed that the less volatile four-week moving average fell to 354,000 from the previous week's revised average of 359,500. The decrease also pulled the four-week moving average down to its lowest level since March of 2008.
Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, also edged down to 3.402 million in the week ended February 18th from the preceding week's revised level of 3.404 million. With the drop, continuing claims are at their lowest level since August of 2008.
Jennifer Lee, Senior Economist at BMO Capital Markets, said, "Judging from the other employment indicators seen recently (Conference Board, the regional PMIs), it looks like the U.S. continued to churn out jobs steadily in February."
Next Friday, the Labor Department is due to release its closely watched report on the employment situation in the month of February.
Non-farm payroll employment jumped by 243,000 jobs in January following an increase of 203,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate subsequently dipped to 8.3 percent from 8.5 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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