WASHINGTON, March 27 The number of Americans
filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell
last week and touched its lowest level in nearly four months,
suggesting the labor market was strengthening.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined
10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 311,000, the lowest level since
November, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Claims for the week ended March 15 were revised to show
1,000 more applications received than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time
applications for jobless benefits rising to 325,000 in the week
ended March 22.
The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a
better measure of underlying labor market conditions as it irons
out week-to-week volatility, fell 9,500 to 317,750. That was the
lowest level since September.
A Labor Department analyst said no states were estimated and
there were no special factors influencing the state level data.
The labor market is improving after an unusually cold and
snowy winter disrupted hiring at the end of 2013 and the
beginning of this year.
The government is expected to report next week that nonfarm
payrolls rose 190,000 in March from 175,000 in February,
according to a preliminary Reuters survey of economists.
The unemployment rate is forecast ticking down a tenth of a
percentage point to 6.6 percent.
The claims report showed the number of people still
receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 53,000 to
2.82 million in the week ended March 15, the lowest level since
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)