Jobless benefits claims fall to lowest since 2008

WASHINGTON , Thu Apr 5, 2012 – The number of Americans lining up for new jobless benefits fell to the lowest level in nearly four years last week, according to a government report that showed ongoing healing in the labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 357,000, the lowest since April 2008, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

“The claims data are consistent with modest job growth in March,” said Yelena Shulyatyeva, and economist at BNP Paribas in New York.

Futures for stocks pared losses following the data’s publication while prices on U.S. government debt trimmed gains. The euro extended losses against the dollar.

Thursday’s weekly claims report has no direct relationship to the March employment report due on Friday because the data for the monthly report was gathered earlier in the month.

But the claims data could bolster the case that the healing labor market is lowering the need for the Federal Reserve to do more to boost growth.

Economists polled by Reuters expect the employment report will show the U.S. economy added 203,000 jobs last month, notching up a fourth straight month of solid job.

That would mark the longest stretch of monthly employment gains topping 200,000 since 1999.

The four-week moving average for new claims, a measure of labor market trends, declined 4,250 to 361,750.