Jobless Claims Fall to Near 4-Year Low

Jobless claims unexpectedly fell last week to the lowest level in nearly four years, the Labor Department reported today in Washington.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000 in the week ended February 11, the lowest since March 2008. However, the Labor Department revised the prior week’s figure up to 361 from a previously reported 358,000.

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The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a more accurate indicator of labor market trends, fell to 365,250, the lowest since April 2008.

Job gains have exceeded 200,000 for two consecutive months now, pushing the national unemployment rate to a three-year low of 8.3 percent in January.

Last week’s drop saw unemployment claims fall below the 350,000 level that economists normally associate with sustained strength in the labor market for the first time in years.

The number of people still receiving state benefits after an initial week of aid fell 100,000 to 3.43 million in the week ended February 4 — the lowest since August 2008.

The number of people receiving emergency unemployment benefits rose 16,568 to 3.00 million in the week ended January 28, the latest week for which the data is available.

A total of 7.68 million Americans claimed unemployment benefits under all programs last week, up 18,304 from the previous week.

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