Weekly jobless claims fall 5,000 to 4-year low
Initial jobless claims fell to 348,000 for the week ended March 17 from an upwardly adjusted 353,000 a week earlier, according to the Labor Department.
The seasonally adjusted measure hit a fresh four-year low last week, approaching early March 2008's 347,000 filings. Initial claims haven't topped 400,000 since early January.
Jobless filings reached a recessionary peak of 655,000 in early March 2009.
Analysts polled by Econoday expected 352,000 new jobless claims, and the economics website said the greater-than-predicted decline in claims is "likely a modest plus for the stock market."
The four-week moving average for claims, a less volatile indicator, dipped modestly to 355,000 from 356,250.
The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate dipped to 2.6%, or 3.35 million, for the week ended March 10 from 2.7%, or 3.36 million, the prior week.
An unadjusted total of 7.28 million people claiming benefits for the week ended March 3 dropped 142,999 from a week earlier.
New York saw the biggest decline in unadjusted claims for the week ended March 10, as the Labor Department contributed the drop by 14,222 to fewer layoffs in transportation, food service and education.