New unemployment claims in the U.S. fell to a lower level than most economists had expected, according to figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.
For the week ended March 10th, the Labor Department reported a seasonally adjusted level of 351,000 new jobless claims, a drop of 14,000 from the previous week's revised level of 365,000.
While the previous week's figure was revised up somewhat from the 362,000 initially reported, claims for the latest week came in below the 355,000 predicted by most economists.
As a result of the bigger than expected decrease, jobless claims matched the four-year low that was set in the week ended February 11th.
Labor Department officials said that seasonal factors had predicted a 4.7 percent drop in new claims. However, the actual figures showed an 8.3 percent decline, resulting in the overall drop in the seasonally adjusted figures.
The four-week moving average of initial jobless claims, a statistic that reduces some of the week-to-week volatility, was unchanged at 355,750.
Most economists believe that for the unemployment rate to drop significantly, weekly jobless claims must remain below 400,000 for an extended period. The new jobless claims figures have held below that level for all but one week since late November.
The number of people on the unemployment rolls, a figure known as continuing claims, fell by 81,000 to 3.343 million in the week ended March 3rd from the previous week's revised level of 3.424 million. Continuing claims came in lower than the 3.415 level predicted by economists.
The four-week moving average of continuing unemployment claims fell by 25,250 to 3,394,250 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,419,500.
by RTT Staff Writer
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