New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest levels in almost four years, according to figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.
For the week ended March 31st, the level of new claims for unemployment benefits came in at a seasonally adjusted level of 357,000, a decline of 6,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 363,000.
While the previous week's figure was upwardly revised from the 359,000 initially reported, the latest week's figure still came in below the 360,000 predicted by most economists.
The last time the weekly jobless claims numbers came in below the figure for the latest week was in mid-April 2008, according to Labor Department statistics.
According to Labor Department officials, seasonal factors had predicted a 2.1 percent decline, but the actual figures showed a 3.7 percent decline, resulting in the greater-than-expected drop in the seasonally adjusted figures.
The report also showed that the less volatile four-week moving average edged down to 361,750 from the previous week's revised average of 366,000. With the drop, the four-week moving average also hit its lowest level since April of 2008.
The total number of people on the unemployment rolls, a figure known as continuing claims, fell by 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted level of 3.338 million in the week ended March 24th, the Labor Department said.
However, some of that decline results from the previous week's revised figure for continuing claims coming in at 3.354 million, somewhat higher than the 3.34 million initially reported.
The four-week average of continuing unemployment claims fell 24,500 to 3,367,250 from the previous week's revised average of 3,391,750.
More detailed information on job creation in the U.S. and the unemployment rate in the month of March is due to be released by the Labor Department on Friday.
While the report is expected to show the addition of at least 200,000 jobs for the fourth month in a row in March, the unemployment rate is expected to remain elevated at 8.3 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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