Jobless Claims Bounce Off 4-Year Lows

New jobless claims figures were higher last week than in the week before, according to a government report. However, the change was not significant enough to change perceptions that the labor market was strengthening.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 8,000 in the week ended March 3 to a seasonally adjusted 362,000, the Labor Department reported on Thursday. However, even with the increase, claims are still near four-year lows.

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On Friday, the Labor Department will release its monthly payrolls report. Despite the rise in claims last week, the government is still expected to report on Friday that the economy had a third straight month of solid job gains in February.

ADP (NASDAQ:ADP) data on Wednesday showed private employers stepped up hiring in February, adding 216,000 jobs in the United States. Other data on Thursday showed planned layoffs at companies declined 3.3 percent in February.

However, the jobs recovery remains slow, and the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid rose 10,000 to 3.42 million in the week ended February 25, the most recent week for which that information is available.

About 43 percent of the 12.8 million Americans unemployed in January had been out of work for more than 6 months. Moreover 23.8 million Americans are either out of work or underemployed, and there are no job openings for nearly three out of every four unemployed people.

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