Washington, March 23 (IANS/EFE) The number of people filing initial applications for unemployment benefits fell last week by 5,000 to 348,000, the fewest since February 2008, the US Labor Department said Thursday.
The rolling four-week average of jobless claims, which is thought to better reflect underlying trends, slipped by 1,250 to 355,000, also the lowest level in four years.
The recession that began in December 2007 and officially ended in June 2009 destroyed 8.4 million US jobs. Economists see weekly jobless claims of less than 400,000 as indicative of an improving labor market.
The ranks of people receiving state unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 to 3.35 million during the week that ended March 10, the Labor Department said.
State benefits generally run out after 26 weeks, but the worst economic slump since the Great Depression prompted lawmakers to approve federal emergency programmes that provide jobless benefits for up to 99 weeks.
For the week ending March 3, the number of people getting state or federal unemployment benefits stood at 7.28 million, a decline of 142,500 from the previous week.
The US economy gained 227,000 jobs last month, but the unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.3 percent due to a rise in workforce participation, according to the Labor Department’s February employment report, released March 9.