Jobless claims fall to 4-year low in latest week

WASHINGTON Thu Mar 29, 2012 9:10am EDT

Conference attendees cross a street in San Francisco, California March 15, 2012. U.S. economic growth showed signs of becoming more self-sustaining as the number of Americans claiming new jobless benefits fell back to a four-year low last week and manufacturing activity in the Northeast picked up this month. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Conference attendees cross a street in San Francisco, California March 15, 2012. U.S. economic growth showed signs of becoming more self-sustaining as the number of Americans claiming new jobless benefits fell back to a four-year low last week and manufacturing activity in the Northeast picked up this month.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New claims for unemployment benefits fell to a fresh four-year low last week, according to a government report that showed ongoing healing in the labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 359,000, the lowest level since April 2008, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

The report included revisions for claims data from 2007 based on updated seasonal adjustment calculations. New seasonal adjustment factors were also introduced for 2012.

The prior week's figure was revised up to 364,000 from the previously reported 348,000. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a claims reading of 350,000 for last week.

The four-week moving average for new claims, a measure of labor market trends, declined 3,500 to 365,000.

Employers added 227,000 jobs to their payrolls in February, taking the tally for the past three months to 734,000. A report on jobs growth during March is due on April 6.

A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the state-level data and only two states - Alaska and Hawaii - had been estimated.

The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 41,000 to 3.34 million in the week ended March 17, the lowest since August 2008.

A total of 7.153 million people were claiming unemployment benefits during the week ended March 10 under all programs, down 131,488 from the prior week.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

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