Jobless claims fall to four-year low, suggesting jobs recovery gaining traction

WASHINGTON, Thu Mar 22, 2012 – The number of Americans claiming new unemployment benefits dropped to a four-year low last week, offering further evidence the jobs market recovery was gaining traction.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, the lowest level since February 2008, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

The prior week’s figure was revised up to 353,000 from the previously reported 351,000. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 354,000 last week.

The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, declined 1,250 to 355,000.

The claims data covered the survey week for March nonfarm payrolls. Claims dropped 5,000 between the February and March survey periods, suggesting another month of solid job gains.

“That’s another indication that the labor market is healing. That’s good news for the March payroll report,” said Gus Faucher, a senior economist at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh.