WASHINGTON (3/7/14)--Jobless claims fell by 26,000--from 349,000 to 323,000--for the week ending March 1, according to Labor Department data released Thursday.
As The Wall Street Journal reported this week, claims for unemployment benefits have sunk to a three-month low.
While the size in the drop surprised forecasters, the volatile shifts in numbers could be explained, in part, by recent holidays or the winter weather that's thumped much of the Northeast and South Atlantic regions of the country (Economy.com Feb 6).
The four-week moving average for initial claims, which may more accurately reflect jobless trends, dropped by 2,000 last week to 336,500. Analysts note that this rate sits slightly above the claim levels consistently reported in the pre-recession era.
Continuing claims, or those claiming at least a second week of unemployment, fell to 2.9 million in the week ending Feb. 22, a second straight week of decline. The four-week moving average backpedaled by 14,750 to 2.93 million.
Moody's analysts say continuing claims had been climbing since early December, but that the recent trend could be a sign that the labor market has started to rebound as the inclement weather backs off.
Thanks to this decline, though, the insured unemployment rate, which measures both filed claim volume and length, has fallen to 2.2%.
The Labor Department also reported that the total number of Americans claiming benefits from all unemployment insurance programs stood at about 3.5 million for the week ending Feb. 15. That's about an 86,000 decrease from the previous week.
Economists now await today's release of the Labor Department's new-hire numbers, which are expected to show a 152,000-job growth spurt for February, an improvement from previous months.