In the latest positive sign for the U.S. labor market, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing that first-time claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly decreased in the week ended March 9th.
The report showed that initial jobless claims fell to 332,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 342,000.
The drop came as a surprise to economists, who had expected jobless claims to rise to 350,000 from the 340,000 originally reported for the previous week.
With the unexpected decrease, jobless claims fell to their lowest level since hitting 330,000 in the week ended January 19th.
However, it is worth noting that the January data reflected seasonal distortions. When excluding that dip, jobless claims are at their lowest level since early 2008.
The Labor Department also said the four-week moving average fell to 346,750, a decrease of 2,750 from the previous week's revised average of 349,500.
The modest decrease pulled the less volatile four-week moving average down to its lowest level since March of 2008.
The report also showed that continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance fell to 3.024 million in the week ended March 2nd from the preceding week's revised level of 3.113 million.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims also fell to 3,098,250, a decrease of 28,250 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,126,500.
The jobless claims report has added to recent optimism about the labor market following last week's better than expected monthly jobs report
Last Friday, the Labor Department released a report a report showing that stronger than expected job growth pushed the unemployment rate down to a four-year low in February.
The Labor Department said non-farm payroll employment rose by 236,000 jobs in February compared to economist estimates for an increase of about 171,000 jobs.
The continued job growth pushed the unemployment rate down to 7.7 percent in February from 7.9 percent in January, while economists had expected the unemployment rate to edge down to 7.8 percent.
With the bigger than expected decrease, the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since hitting 7.3 percent in December of 2008.
by RTT Staff Writer
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